The EU Referendum in Northern Ireland: Closing Borders, Re-Opening Border Debates

Mary C. Murphy

Abstract


The UK decision to leave the European Union (EU) following a referendum in June 2016 fundamentally alters the country’s relationship with the EU, with its European neighbours, with the rest of the world and potentially with its own constituent units. It is clear that different parts of the UK will be impacted differently by this decision and by the unfolding exit terms and process. In this context, Northern Ireland is considered to be particularly vulnerable. This article examines the referendum campaign in Northern Ireland by detailing input from the Northern Ireland administration, political parties, civil society and external figures. The article suggests that the overall referendum campaign in Northern Ireland was hamstrung by the opposing positions taken by key political protagonists, particularly Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This produced a challenging context for the referendum debate in Northern Ireland. The post-referendum period has also been marked by persistent differences in relation to how best to approach specific Northern Ireland issues and challenges. A continued absence of clear positions and a lack of contingency planning underline a poor level of preparedness for future political developments.


Keywords


Northern Ireland, EU, referendum, Brexit

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