Peace after Brexit: the case of Northern Ireland



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Tartu Ülikool


Since its occurrence in January 2020, Brexit has garnered much academic interest and its consequences in domestic and international politics have become subject to analysis. The constituent parts of the United Kingdom are reacting to Brexit in distinct ways and tensions are particularly pronounced in Northern Ireland as it is a nation within the United Kingdom, but shares an island with the Republic of Ireland. The objective of this thesis is to analyse Brexit as a critical juncture in the context of Northern Ireland’s peace process and its maintenance. The main research question is: how has Brexit impacted the fragile peace in Northern Ireland? The main hypothesis of this thesis is that the British exit from the EU destabilises peace in Northern Ireland, as the Good Friday Agreement has been shelved in favour of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. Using critical juncture theory and process tracing methodology, provides a systematic framework from antecedent conditions to cleavages to the critical juncture to its legacy. The antecedent conditions focus on The Troubles (1968-1998) and the legacy of the critical juncture (Brexit) ends with May 2022 Stormont elections. The Good Friday Agreement and the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, from the Withdrawal Agreement, provide primary source evidence for peacekeeping in Northern Ireland and secondary sources expose the actual steps taken to subdue tensions. Both the Good Friday Agreement and the Protocol emphasise cooperation between Belfast, London, and Dublin. However, much of the cooperation used to be mediated by the European Union. A dissonance is apparent between the primary sources and the reality, thus, challenges from 1998 remain in 2022.