Brexit and the Northern Irish Borderlands: Fragile Progress Moving Towards Disintegration
Michael Buttazzoni | BIG Research Reports | #49
Northern Ireland is perhaps the most unassuming borderland region one can imagine. No natural or man-made impediments physically separate the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland (UK), and the international border runs a meandering 450 km route that divides the historic province of Ulster, several parishes, and occasionally individual households between the two sovereign states. With only a switch from imperial to metric signage to denote one’s position, the most significant division within the Northern Irish borderlands, instead, exists primarily within the minds of those who dwell there. Though the sectarian conflict between Catholic Nationalist and Protestant Unionist communities pre-dates the current border configuration – laid down only in 1921— by several centuries, the largely socio-economicimpact of Northern Ireland’s modern ‘bordering’ process pales in comparison to the human cost accumulated during the conflicts provoked by its ethno-political symbolism. The border, in this sense, is a tangible legacy of the region’s recent post-colonial past, whose present post-Brexit management will define the shape of its post-conflict future.