Brexit and the Irish border: consequences for the peace process

O'Neill, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-5810-895X, 2018. Brexit and the Irish border: consequences for the peace process. Rivista di Studi Politici Internazionali. ISSN 0035-6611

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The decision of the 2016 British referendum on EU membership to take the United Kingdom out of EU will have significant and lasting consequences. For the United Kingdom and its relations with European neighbours, for the constitutional fabric of the British State, and for the EU itself at a time of rising public anxiety over the future of the European project. The consequences of this decision will have no greater impact however, than on the still-fragile peace process known as the Belfast Agreement of 1998 negotiated by parties representing the provinces' principal cultural communities and the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. This historic event brought to an end decades of political violence and centuries of sectarian bitterness, or so it was thought by participants on every side. Brexit throws the future of that peace process into doubt.

The EU was an important guarantor of that historic reconciliation, and a paradigm too for peaceful coexistence and 'ever-closer' integration within a framework of multi-level governance. As such, it that offered a positive exemplar of what can be achieved by the setting aside of ancient quarrels. The EU has continued to play a signal role as a key agency for facilitating and funding projects on the ground that have consolidated the peace process and minimized inter-cultural conflict, gradually replacing outright animosity by rising political trust. The most signal achievement here was to reduce the visible 'fact' and symbolism of a 'hard' border between the two Irelands. Brexit threatens to reintroduce what had become an invisible and mostly insignificant border, and by doing so sending the peace process into reverse. The paper reviews how the imminent threat to peace in this turbulent region might be avoided, reviews competing proposals for border management, if a return to violence is not to be the most calamitous consequence and casualty of Brexit.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Rivista di Studi Politici Internazionali
Creators: O'Neill, M.
Publisher: Casa Editrice Le Lettere
Date: 8 November 2018
ISSN: 0035-6611
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 24 Sep 2018 11:33
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2018 12:23

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