29. June 2020 18:00
Dr. Mary C. Murphy, Lisa Claire Whitten
The “backstop”, probably the most contested issue in the first chapter of the Brexit negotiations between the UK government and the European Union, has been replaced with an alternative trading scheme, allowing the Irish Border to be kept open. The Northern Irish Assembly was reinstated in January 2020 after three years of suspension. However, Julian Smith, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who was seen as instrumental in restoring devolved power sharing, and who was commended for this work by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, lost his post in Prime Minister Johnson’s latest cabinet reshuffle. Although the UK Government has confirmed that there will be Brexit checks on animals and food goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK from January 2021, there are still concerns that the British commitment to the Northern Ireland Protocol is not steadfast. The outcome of the trade deal negotiations between the UK and the EU will also have an impact on the Island of Ireland.
Meanwhile, the February 8th General Election in the Republic of Ireland brought an unexpected result: with 24,5% of the vote (and an increase of 10,7%), Sinn Fein received the most first-preference votes, followed by parties Fianna Fáil (22,2%) and Fine Gael (20,9%), who was in a minority government with independent parliamentarians. Both parties have said they would not enter a coalition with Sinn Fein, the party who has been historically associated with the IRA. During the campaign, Sinn Fein focused on the hosing crisis, health care and the economy, rather than Brexit, which led to young voters flocking to the party. Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein’s leader, has already announced that she wants to run a “border poll”, which puts the question of unification to the people and, at the same time, the question of the future of UK devolution.
Lisa Claire Whitten, Queen’s University Belfast and Mary C. Murphy, University of Cork, will talk us through the respective situations. What’s next for Northern Ireland? How can the outcome of Ireland’s General Election be explained, and will they succeed at forming a government? And ultimately, what does this mean for the UK and the EU?
The discussion will be chaired by Rupert Graf Strachwitz, Vice-Chairman
Dr Mary C. Murphy holds a Jean Monnet Chair in European Integration and is a lecturer in politics with the Department of Government and Politics, University College Cork. Mary specialises in the study of the EU and Northern Ireland politics. Her latest monograph Europe and Northern Ireland’s Future: Negotiating Brexit’s Unique Case was published by Agenda Publishing/Columbia University Press in April 2018.
Lisa Claire Whitten is a NINE scholar at Queen’s University Belfast and writing her PhD on “Brexit and the Constitution of Northern Ireland”. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Lisa Claire worked for a Liberal Democrat MP in Westminster and later at the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels. She is also an alumna of the 2019 Young Königswinter Conference.
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