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Responsive Withdrawal? The Politics of EU Agenda-Setting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-438
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


King's Authors


This contribution asks whether and why the newly political environment of EU law-making impacts on the European Commission’s choice (not) to announce the withdrawal of legislative proposals. We argue that the Commission uses ‘responsive withdrawal’ to signal self-restraint or policy-determination to different audiences and, thus, reacts to bottom-up political pressure by either politicising or depoliticising the legislative agenda. Bottom-up pressures are driven by 1) the national contestation of ‘Europe’; 2) visible controversy about optimal (crisis) governance; and 3) the domestic salience of EU legislation. Our hypotheses are tested on a new dataset of all ordinary legislative files concluded, withdrawn, rejected or ongoing between 2006 and 2018. ‘Withdrawal announcements’ are more likely when Euroscepticism is high and when legislation touches core state powers, but less likely when legislation is domestically salient. We also demonstrate the continued importance of cyclical and technical reasons. Our analysis complements extant explanations of withdrawal as the upshot of functional factors or of uncertainty, and contributes to the nascent debate about whether, why and how supranational actors respond when the systems in which they operate—and the policies they produce—come under attack.

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