Brexit and the Union
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Brexit and the Union

Reports & Briefings


As of 11pm on 31 January 2020, the UK was no longer a member of the European Union. But what challenges does leaving that Union pose for the Unions of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

The Brexit process has already created strains in the relationships between the constituent territories that make up the UK. In part, these strains emerged from the divergent preferences that were evident in the 2016 referendum, and that have remained evident since then. The UK as a whole has left the EU, but without the consent of the majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Brexit also poses some big challenges for the UK’s system of devolution, and relationships between the four governing administrations will be tested. Difficult questions bubbling below the surface since 2016 will demand a response.

What is to be the balance of power between the UK Government/Parliament and the devolved institutions in post-Brexit UK? What is the scope of the UK internal market? Is there a need for common frameworks in key sectors such as agriculture and the environment, and who should govern these? What will be the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland? And can England and its regions find their own distinctive voice in the UK’s governance structure?

In this report, our Fellows discuss some of the issues Brexit presents for the UK's territorial and constitutional future.

Mary Murphy explores the challenges Brexit is posing for the three strands of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and the totality of relationships between the UK and Ireland.

Michael Keating explores the meaning and scope of the UK internal market, and how it might affect devolution.

David Bell considers the challenges and opportunities in Brexit-related policies, particularly fisheries and regional policy, both of which span the powers and responsibilities of the UK and devolved institutions.

Nicola McEwen explores the role of devolved governments in shaping UK Brexit laws, and considers whether one of the principles of devolution – the Sewel convention – is being eroded by Brexit.

Michael Kenny discusses the strain Brexit has placed on relationships between the governments, and evaluates the steps taken to address grievances in those ‘left behind’ regions of England.

Jac Larner and Dan Wincott examine the outcome of the 2019 General Election and its impact on representation and constitutional politics in Wales.

Finally, Kirsty Hughes provides analysis on the choices that would face Scotland were it to become an independent country seeking to negotiate a new relationship with its European neighbours.

All of these issues will be shaped by the nature of the UK-EU relationship, whether or not a deal is negotiated, and the scope of that deal. Politics and personality will also play their part. Many uncertainties remain. But decisions taken in the coming months and years are likely to have a long-lasting impact on how the UK and the countries and regions that constitute it are governed.

Brexit and the Union_.pdf (5.83 MB, application/pdf)

"Brexit has potential to place even greater strain on the UK's territorial constitution" @michaelkenny_ discusses E… https://t.co/NMrXHKDcPS

2 days ago

"Forget everything you know about Irish politics...The rules have, seemingly, been entirely rewritten by a seismic… https://t.co/gCnW7AZL9O

2 days ago

What challenges does leaving the European Union pose for the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Our Fel… https://t.co/EFmEB5em1U

3 days ago

.@KirstyS_Hughes comment piece @thetimes drawn from our recent report #BrexitandtheUnion @UKandEU https://t.co/NICg6fAuf3

3 days ago