In This Review
A Troubled Constitutional Future: Northern Ireland After Brexit

A Troubled Constitutional Future: Northern Ireland After Brexit

By Mary Murphy and Jonathan Evershed

Agenda, 2022, 208 pp.

The 1998 Anglo-Irish Good Friday Agreement seemed to resolve decades of conflict between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland. The EU had done much to advance this constitutional settlement, not just by offering a forum for informal discussions but also by reducing the significance of sovereign borders, allowing people to move with ease across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Yet Brexit has called this peaceful arrangement into question. This study provides a sober explanation of how and why this thorny situation has developed. It is a story that baffles outsiders, largely because it involves partisan opportunism. Most Northern Irish political parties had opposed Brexit, but the ruling Democratic Unionist Party exploited its essential role in former British Prime Minister Theresa May’s parliamentary majority to veto compromises that would have allowed Northern Ireland to adopt certain EU regulations and thereby avoid having to erect a border in the Irish Sea. But May’s successor, Boris Johnson, betrayed the DUP. He accepted the 2020 Anglo-Irish Protocol, which established border controls effectively in the Irish Sea and allowed Northern Ireland to remain subject to EU regulations, smoothing the rest of the United Kingdom’s path to a hard Brexit. Although people in Northern Ireland are unlikely to support the reunification of Ireland immediately, these developments will likely lead to the renegotiation of the 1998 agreement, the consequences of which remain unknown.