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‘It’s not just the economy, stupid !’
Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish border conundrum

Philippe Cauvet
p. 105-118

Résumé

The aim of this paper is to show that to find a solution to the Irish border issue resulting from Brexit, one has to go further than simply looking at the commercial, social and economic threats Brexit poses in Northern Ireland and in cross-border relations between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The current Irish Border problem is fundamentally political and constitutional rather than socio-economic. Yet, as a political and constitutional question, the ongoing Irish Border problem is not just a consequence of Brexit. It is first and foremost the result of the unfinished nature of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (GFA). In the two decades that have passed since the Agreement, no real solution has been found to the Irish Border question, which had been the crux of the conflict between Irish nationalism and unionism since the very creation of Northern Ireland in 1920. Hence, if the prospect of Brexit, soft or hard, raises such a complex Irish Border problem, it is not simply because of its economic and commercial impacts : it is also due to the political and constitutional weaknesses of the GFA itself. One of the major weaknesses lies in the consociational institutions established in Northern Ireland in 1998, which, instead of building cross-community confidence and consensus, have embedded and reinforced sectarian polarisation in Northern Ireland. The second weakness lies in the incomplete constitutional definition of the roles of Dublin and London as neutral co-sovereign guarantor states of the GFA.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 The Guardian, 31 January 2019.

1 Since the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum were released and the British government entered negociations with the EU in order to leave the European Union, the question of the border between Northern Ireland/UK and the Republic of Ireland has proved to be the main bone of contention opposing London and the E.U.’s negotiating teams. More than three years after the referendum and even though Theresa May’s government had promised to find solutions to keep the Irish border as seamless and invisible as it was before Brexit, the backstop contained in the draft agreement reached in 2018 between London and Michel Barnier’s team is, at this stage, only just a ploy to postpone the problem of the Irish Border. It has not brought a solution as it lacks political support.1 The aim of this paper is to analyse the reasons which can account for such a complex and intricate situation.

2 It is generally agreed that the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union will negatively impact the Irish and Northern Irish economies as well as cross-border trade and relations between Ireland and Northern Ireland, more particularly in certain sectors which are highly dependent on such trade, like the agri-food sector. Yet if a general agreement between London, Brussels, Dublin and Northern Irish political parties on the status of the Irish border after Brexit has still not been reached, it is not simply because of these potentially negative socio-economic impacts. It is first and foremost because the existing soft border regime is part and parcel of a highly complex constitutional and institutional order, established by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and ratified by two simultanous referendums in Ireland and in Northern Ireland. Hence it can legitimately be argued that if the Irish border is so contentious today, it is because the GFA has not brought a real and consensual solution to the vexed question of the very status of the Irish Border. In spite of twenty years of peace and in spite of a 56 % Northern Irish majority in favour of remaining in the EU, Unionists and Nationalists in Northern Ireland, still disagree on what to do with this Border. To say this in other words, if Brexit raises multiple problems and debates around the question of the Irish Border, it is not so much the consequence of Brexit itself, as the symptom of the original weaknessess of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

3 This paper is divided into three parts. The first part will show that as the present soft regime of the Irish Border is inextricably linked to, and dependent on, the political and constitutional compromise of 1998, it precludes any solution which would be purely commercial and/or technical. Any change, soft or hard, in the way the Border’s control functions are operated necessarily destabilizes the political and institutional balance found in 1998, most particularly, but not only, in Strand 2 of the GFA. Hence, the difficulty of the post-Brexit Irish Border conundrum also lies in the GFA itself. The next two parts successively focus on two major weaknesses in the GFA which account for this difficulty. The second part will demonstrate that even if the GFA was a sign of significant improvement in Anglo-Irish relations, facilitated by the European context, the GFA has not brought a definitive and mutually agreed constitutional definition of the rights and obligations of Dublin and London as the co-sovereign guarantors of the GFA. The third part will demonstrate that Strand 1 of the GFA, establishing consociational institutions in Northern Ireland, has maintained and reinforced sectarian polarisation, making any cross-community consensus on the status of the Irish Border question impossible. Even though there was a 56 % majority for Remain in Northern Ireland, and even if unionists and nationalists generally tend to support the existing soft border regime, both communities still nurture irreconciliable political and territorial projects. Although consociational democracy has brought peace and stability in Northern Ireland, it has failed to transform ethno-communal identities.

The economics and politics of the soft Irish Border 

4 The aim of this first section is to demonstrate that the socio-economic problems related to the Irish Border after Brexit are not dissociable from political and constitutional ones. To solve the Irish Border conundrum, any proposal must integrate all these dimensions.

  • 2 D'Arcy, M. & Ruane, F., The Good Friday Agreement and the Island Economy and Brexit, Dublin & Londo (...)
  • 3 Ferriter, D., The Border: The Legacy of a century of Anglo-Irish politics, London, Profile Books, 2 (...)

5 For anyone attempting to describe the Irish Border as it actually is today, the exercise is very similar to describing any internal European border. The Irish border looks and operates like any normal internal European border through which goods, services, capital and population movements freely flow.2 However, as opposed to other European borders, the situation prevailing today in the island of Ireland is not the sole result of London’s and Dublin’s membership of the EEC/EU since 1973. It is first and foremost the result of a political compromise between the two Irish communities and between the two sovereign states enshrined in the GFA. Until the 1998 peace settlement, and despite the two sovereign states being member states of the EEC/EU, the Irish border had remained very different from other European borders. It was heavily policed and militarised. The number of roads crossing the Border was limited, hindering cross-border movements of people as well as cross-border exchanges in goods, services and capital.3

  • 4 McLoughlin, P.J.,‘British-Irish Relations and the Northern Ireland Peace Process: The Importance of (...)

6 This very brief historical sketch of the evolution of social and commercial cross-border flows since 1973 shows that the socio-economic normalisation of the Irish Border is not solely the result of European decisions and influence. It is first and foremost the direct result of changing relationships between London and Dublin on the Northern Irish question within the wider European context. The Irish Border being an internal European border since 1973, it made it easier for both States, and both Northern Irish communities, to reach a delicately balanced political compromise on the all-Ireland as well as on the internal dimensions of the Northern Irish problem.4

  • 5 McLoughlin, P. J. (with D. Phinnemore, L. McGowan, L., and C. McCall),‘Northern Ireland – 40 Years (...)

7 Strand 2 of the GFA created new institutional and political structures which were inextricably dependent on the condition that the Irish Border be a normal internal European border and that both states be members of EU. Strand 2 provided for the creation of a North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) – which was very much inspired by the model of the European Council of Ministers.5 In adddition to this executive cross-border institution, it provided for the establishment of implementation bodies whose function was to promote cross-border cooperation in various socio-economic sectors, like agriculture, tourism or trade. One of these bodies, the Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB), was created to supervise EU funding on a cross-border basis.

  • 6 McLoughlin, P.J. Idem.

8 However, these cross-border institutional and economic arrangements were part and parcel of and dependent on a wider political trade-off between nationalism and unionism. In exchange for such an open border with executive cross-border cooperation institutions shared between Belfast and Dublin (Strand 2), and in exchange for new consociational power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland (Strand 1), Dublin accepted the revision of Articles 2 and 3 of its Constitution, explicitly endorsing the principle of consent and abandoning its territorial claim on Northern Ireland. Instead it recognised the island of Ireland as a shared territory and the right of Northern Irish people to freely choose to be Irish and/or British citizens. Such constitutional reform had long been a major demand of the Northern Irish unionist community. Similarly, the scope and powers of those cross-border institutions were the objects of tough negotiations between unionists and nationalists, the latter eventually having to accept the limits demanded by the former.6 Simultanously, London and Dublin agreed the status of Northern Ireland could not be changed until a majority in the North and in the South of Ireland consented to such change with two concurrent referendums. The current invisibility of the soft Irish Border and the absence of border controls are therefore intimately linked to the entire constitutional and institutional framework agreed to in 1998.

  • 7 Singham, Shanker, How to fix the Irish Border problem, 19 March 2018, available at https://capx.co/ (...)
  • 8 Hayward, K., All simple solutions to the post-Brexit Irish border fail to acknowledge complex reali (...)
  • 9In essence, the UK’s proposal is for the whole of the UK to remain in the customs union for a limi (...)
  • 10 Financial Times, 30 October 2018. See also O'Leary, B. & Garry, J. ‘While May Must Decide What To D (...)
  • 11 Irish Times, December 21, 2018.
  • 12 Center for Cross-Border Studies, ‘The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the negotiations on the UK’ (...)

9 All this explains why a purely commercial and strictly technical/technological solution to the problem of the Irish border customs and migration controls post-Brexit – and British eurosceptic Conservative circles, close to the European Research Group, helped by experts like Shanker Singham, are extremely imaginative on this7 – is not only insufficient, it is politically irrelevant as it does not address the full complexity and multi-dimensionality of the soft border regime currently in place.8 The UK’s withdrawal from the EU necessarily means transforming the Irish border into an external European Border : as such, it necessarily means undoing both the socio-economic and the institutional/constitutional provisisions of the GFA. However seamless, frictionless and invisible the future Irish border controls are proposed to be after Brexit, they will affect the existing Irish Border regime as a whole. This complexity has been revealed by the backstop problem.9 Although it was accepted by Theresa May in an attempt to make Brexit compatible with the GFA and to avoid a hard border in case of no-deal, it was immediately rejected by Northern Irish Unionists10. David Trimble himself, the UUP’s negociator of the GFA, even threatened to challenge the legality of the backstop as he considered it to be violating the Northern Ireland Act, 1998.11 Hence, any proposal made by London to implement Brexit and re-establish border controls and checks – with or without regulatory alignment, at the border itself or elsewhere, with or without the backstop – directly destabilises the internal Northern Irish institutional arrangements as well as inter-state and cross-border arrangements that London, Dublin and the Irish people, North and South, had agreed to in the GFA.12

10 What the Brexit’s Irish border conundrum demonstrates is that the post-1998 cross-border arrangements and the whole regime of the soft Irish border, although they have brought major and significant political improvements, have remained extremely vulnerable on two accounts. First, they have remained totally dependent on the (in)stability Anglo-Irish relations and on Dublin’s and London’s fluctuating policies and priorities. The second major weakness of the GFA settlement was in the consociational model of the new Northern Irish institutions it established which did not create the conditions for a transformation of communal identities and inter-community relations in the Province.

The Irish Border conundrum, Brexit and Anglo-Irish relations since the GFA

  • 13 Todd, J., The vulnerability of a quasi-constitutonal settlement (2014). Available at https://www.uc (...)
  • 14 Cauvet, P., ‘Deterritorialisation, Reterritorialisation, Nations and States: Irish Nationalist Disc (...)
  • 15 Todd, J., ‘Contested Constitutionalism? Northern Ireland and the British–Irish Relationship since 2 (...)

11 Jennifer Todd was one of the very few scholars who had identified Anglo-Irish relations as one of the most vulnerable aspects of the GFA, especially in the event of Brexit.13 However, as she demonstrated two years before the Brexit referendum, North-South relations in Ireland had already been considerably undermined by the changing Anglo-Irish context. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis in the Republic of Ireland, the successive Dublin governments chose to prioritize domestic interests and policies rather than North-South relations. Another and earlier example of a unilateral and destabilising initiative was the 2004 citizenship referendum in the Republic of Ireland whose results contradicted the rights of citizenship as mutually defined in 1998.14 The Brexit referendum was therefore only just another example of a major lack in the GFA : the incomplete and informal constitutional definition of the roles and obligations of both guarantor states.15 It is indeed quite paradoxical that both the Irish and British States could explicitly and repeatedly recognise the crucial importance of the European context in their mutual efforts to solve their conflict of sovereignty on Northern Ireland through the GFA, while London could simultanously engage in a more and more confrontational relation with the EU, a growingly confrontational relation culminating in the 2016 exit referendum.

12 The failure of the GFA to formalise and to constitutionalise Dublin’s and London’s roles, creating a constitutional vacuum, is best illustrated by the two clashing constitutional interpretations of the Brexit referendum’s results. On the one hand, in Ireland, the referendum itself and its results can be seen as anti-constitutional on the grounds that they are repugnant to the very philosphy and the very terms of the GFA. This is precisely what Mark Durkan, the SDLP (moderate Northern Irish nationalist) MP for Foyle, just a few months after the referendum was trying to assert :

The people of Northern Ireland previously voted for the Good Friday Agreement in a unique dual referendum process involving the north and south of Ireland – that was the high watermark of Irish constitutional democracy. I am pledged to adhere to that and I make no apology to anybody for it. ...Where is the democracy and consent for the people of Northern Ireland when it comes to Brexit? [...] The promise and the understanding that the people of Ireland, north and south, were given when they endorsed the Good Friday Agreement in overwhelming numbers will have been betrayed and damaged. I do not accept, and no Irish nationalist, north or south, who supported the Good Friday Agreement has ever said, that the principle of consent that is housed in the Irish constitution can be removed, replaced or surpassed by a vote in England on Brexit or on anything else.16

13On the other hand, they can be read in the light of the Diceyan constitutional principle of British Parliamentary Supremacy. If David Cameron’s government had the constitutional right to renegociate the terms of the UK’s EU membership and to launch a UK-wide referendum without even consulting Dublin or the Northern Irish Assembly, it is simply because, in spite of the GFA, the British constitution did not bind the London executive to do so. This is the interpretation which was later confirmed by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Miller case : « [T]he consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly is not a legal requirement before the relevant Act of the UK Parliament is passed ».17 The Court, strictly abiding by the traditional Diceyan doctrine of the Westminster Parliament’s sovereignty, took no account of the specific constitutional status of Northern Ireland since the GFA.18

14 Hence, as a shared and mutual redefinition of British and Irish state sovereignties on Northern Ireland, the GFA was a strikingly incomplete and unfinished constitutional process. UK-exit and its Irish Border conundrum, demonstrate that the 1998 agreement had not gone far enough into providing for an explicit, unquestionable and constitutionally binding (re)definition of Dublin’s and London’s obligations as the co-sovereign guarantor states of the Agreement.

The Irish Border conundrum, Brexit and Consociational Power-sharing Democracy in Northern Ireland

15 The second weakness of the GFA which is revealed by the post-Brexit Irish Border question is that of the limits of the consociational power-sharing institutions established in Northern Ireland after the GFA. The Irish Border imbroglio demonstrates that, even if the two Northern Irish communities equally want to keep the Irish Border open and even if supporters of Remain were found in both Northern Irish communities, both communities still abide by and vie for irreconciliable, mutually exclusive views of the constitutional status of the Border, as if twenty-one years of consociational power-sharing democracy in Northern Ireland had entrenched rather than superseded their ethno-territorial antagonism.

  • 19 Wolff, S. & Cordell, K.,‘Consociationalism’, in Wolff, S. & Cordell K., (eds), The Routledge Handbo (...)

16 As a non-majoritarian form of democracy, the aim of the consociational power-sharing institutions established in Northern Ireland after 1998 was to allow representatives of each community to integrate local decision-making institutions without giving excessive powers to the majority.19 That is why these institutions comply with a set of four rigid principles and safeguards : Government by grand coalition, mutual veto, proportionality and segmental autonomy. Northern Irish voters elect their MLAs on a non-majoritarian system, the single transferable vote (STV). Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are registered as Unionist, Nationalist or Other. Ministerial jobs in the Executive are distributed to the two groups on a strictly proportional basis, according to the distribution of seats by parties in the Assembly, following the D’Hondt method, so that each community has a number of ministerial positions proportional to the influence of their group and parties in the Assembly. Using the Petition of Concern procedure, each designation group in the Assembly has the power to block any piece of legislation, making it binding for a bill to be voted by a weighted majority of at least 60 % of MLAs, including 40 % in each designation group, which amounts to a mutual power of veto.

  • 20 For a defence of the Northern Irish consociational model of democracy, see the works by Brendan O'L (...)
  • 21 Whiting, M., ‘Moderation without Change: The Strategic Transformation of Sinn Féin and the IRA in N (...)
  • 22 For a study of the SDLP, see Cauvet, P., Postnationalism, moderate nationalism and a shared Norther (...)
  • 23 For the number of seats won by each party on these different elections, see graph of NIA election r (...)
  • 24 The Atlantic, 23 April 2019.

17 Such a system of government, even if it is defended by many political theorists as an efficient and pragmatic alternative to violent conflict in severely divided societies,20 has induced two long-term and inter-related consequences in Northern Ireland. First as power-sharing was designed and implemented as a form of institutional accommodation rather than transformation of ethnic rivalry, it has institutionalised the existing communal divide between nationalism and unionism. Since 1998, each MLA and each party choosing a designation in the Assembly, each member of the Executive being chosen according to its belonging to a communal party, the political process has revolved around the communal divide instead of superseding it. As is shown by the example of Sinn Fein, and even though its conversion to strictly peaceful and political action can be seen by some as a sign of change, its long-term political objectives as a republican party have not changed at all.21 The same can be said of the DUP and other parties in each sectarian bloc.22 Second, within each camp, power-sharing structurally advantages more extreme parties rather than moderates, which is itself a further obstacle to transformation. Looking at the results of elections in Northern Ireland since 1998 (Table 1), one can clearly see that moderate parties on both sides (SPLP and UUP), who had been the main Northern Irish drivers behind the Peace Process, were rapidly supplanted by their more extreme intra-communal competitors (Sinn Fein and DUP).23 These parallel electoral trends demonstrate that consociational power-sharing institutions have induced a process of intra-ethnic outbidding, pushing ″Northern Irish voters on both sides of the sectarian divide away from the center, and toward the extremes″.24 By organising the institutional system around the ethno-communal divide, consociational power-sharing institutions have induced Northern Irish voters to choose the more extreme parties rather than the more moderates since they perceive the former as the best defenders of their specific communal interests.

Table 1. Share of Seats Won in Northern Irish Assembly Elections (%)

1998

2003

2007

2011

2016

2017

DUP

18,5

27,8

33,2

35,2

35,2

31,1

Sinn Fein

16,7

22,2

25,9

26,9

25,9

30

SDLP

22,2

16,7

14,8

13

11,1

13,3

UUP

25,9

25

16,7

14,8

14,8

11,1

Alliance

5,6

5,6

6,5

7,4

7,4

8,9

UK Unionists

4,6

0,9

0

-

-

-

PUP

1,9

0,9

0,9

0

0

0

PBPA

-

-

0

0

1,9

1,1

TUV

-

-

-

0,9

0,9

1,1

UKIP

-

-

-

0

0

0

Green

0

0

0,9

0,9

1,9

2,2

Others

4,6

0,9

0,9

0,9

0,9

1,1

Total

100

100

100

100

100

100

(Source : House of Commons, Briefing Paper, 9 March 2017, No. CBP7920, p. 13)

  • 25 Shirlow P., ‘Northern Ireland: A Reminder form the Present’, in Coulter C. & Coleman S., (eds), The (...)

18In turn, political parties, rather than looking for cross-community consensus, are incentivised to remain sectarian and to some extent, to become more radical in the defense of their respective communities’ ethnic interests.25 Consociational power-sharing institutions have therefore entrenched sectarian polarisation in the political and electoral process, with polarisation culminating in the 2017 Assembly elections in which Sinn Fein and the DUP obtained an almost equal number of seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly (respectively 28 and 27). These elections took place just a few weeks after the republican party, in a dramatic decision, had pulled out from the Executive, blocking the power-sharing institutions. As this chapter is being written, Northern Irish power-sharing institutions are still suspended, which is the self-evident demonstration that Northern Irish consociational democracy has led to continued sectarian confrontation rather than transformation.

19 The post-referendum Irish border question must be seen as integral to this phenomenon rather than as a whole new question. The difficulty of finding a consensual solution to the Irish Border problem is just another consequence of the sectarian polarisation embedded in Northern Irish politics since 1998. Although there was a cross-community majority of 56 % in Northern Ireland in favour of Remain, and although after the referendum, both sides overtly agreed on the need to preserve the Border open, mostly for economic and commercial interests,26 it proved absolutely impossible to transform this fragile consensus into a long-term cross-party and cross-community united front on the Border issue. The main obstacle to this front was the continued divergence on the constitutional position of the Border between the two sides of the sectarian divide. After the Brexit referendum, Sinn Fein, followed by the SDLP, very quickly called for a Border poll in order to reunify Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. On the unionist side, the DUP and the UUP vocally re-asserted their demand to remain an integral and undifferentiated part of the UK with no border in the Irish Sea. After more than twenty years of political cooperation between communal elites within a Northern Irish power-sharing democracy, no real rapprochement has actually occured between the two communities over the fundamental question of the constitutional status of the Irish partition boundary.

Conclusion

20 All this shows several important features of the ongoing Irish Border conundrum. First, it is not simply an economic and commercial problem: it is a highly political and constitutional one. An exclusively economic and technical solution to the commercial dimension of the problem is by nature irrelevant. The second conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that the current Irish Border conundrum is not a new question which would only be a consequence deriving from the Brexit referendum of June 2016. Although the decision made by a majority of voters in the UK destabilises the existing regime of the soft Irish Border on the isle of Ireland, the main causes for the existing difficulties with the Irish Border lie in the weaknesses of the GFA itself. If there is an Irish Border problem today, it is first and foremost because the GFA has not brought real and long-term political solutions to the historical dispute on the the very status of the Irish partition boundary established between 1920 and 1925. The Brexit referendum is itself the sign that both the Irish and the British states have yet to define the precise and agreed constitutional terms of their shared sovereignty over Northern Ireland. If anything, the decision to hold the 2016 referendum, validated by the UK’s Supreme Court, demonstrates that according to the British constitution, the London executive was right to consider Northern Ireland as an integral part of UK territory rather than as a zone of shared of sovereignty with Dublin. In spite of the GFA, the British constitution is still a strictly unionist constitution. Regarding the internal Northern Irish institutions, the post-Brexit referendum situation has revealed that in spite of a cross-community 56% majority in favour of Remain, and in spite of a common interest in keeping an open border, both communities still abide by their age-old sectarian views of the Border. The consociational power-sharing democracy established in Northern Ireland in 1998 has institutionalised ethno-territorial antagonism and has clearly failed to transform ethno-communal identities in Northern Ireland.

21 Hence, rather than being considered as a new and strictly commercial question, Brexit’s Irish Border problem must be seen as the symptom of the political and constitutional incompleteness of the GFA. Whatever form Brexit takes, it will have to address these fundamental, and yet still unresolved, political and constitutional questions.

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Notes

1 The Guardian, 31 January 2019.

2 D'Arcy, M. & Ruane, F., The Good Friday Agreement and the Island Economy and Brexit, Dublin & London, The Royal Irish Academy/ The British Academy, October 2018, 15p.

3 Ferriter, D., The Border: The Legacy of a century of Anglo-Irish politics, London, Profile Books, 2019, 192p.

Patterson, H., Ireland's violent frontier: The Border and Anglo-Irish relations during the Troubles, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 238p.

4 McLoughlin, P.J.,‘British-Irish Relations and the Northern Ireland Peace Process: The Importance of Intergovernmentalism, in Katy Hayward, Elizabeth Meehan, Niall Ó Dochartaigh (eds), Divided Ireland: State, Nation and Politics across the Island, London, Routledge, 2016, pp. 75-90.

5 McLoughlin, P. J. (with D. Phinnemore, L. McGowan, L., and C. McCall),‘Northern Ireland – 40 Years of EU Membership’, Journal of Contemporary European Research, 8: 4, 2012; pp. 563-70.

6 McLoughlin, P.J. Idem.

7 Singham, Shanker, How to fix the Irish Border problem, 19 March 2018, available at https://capx.co/how-to-fix-the-irish-border-problem. See also Hayward, K., How not to fix the Irish Border problem, 7 Avril 2018, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2018/04/07/how-not-to-fix-the-irish-border-problem/ .

8 Hayward, K., All simple solutions to the post-Brexit Irish border fail to acknowledge complex realities, 21 September 2018, https://ukandeu.ac.uk/all-simple-solutions-to-the-post-brexit-irish-border-fail-to-acknowledge-complex-realities/ .

9In essence, the UK’s proposal is for the whole of the UK to remain in the customs union for a limited period after the end of the transition period – so it would leave the EU in March 2019 and the single market in December 2020, but stay in the customs union for longer. The idea is “to apply a temporary customs arrangement ... between the UK and the EU” that would allow the UK to sign free trade deals with other countries (but not implement the parts of them relating to tariffs, rendering them largely pointless). The proposed UK backstop “will only be in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced”, which the government “expects” to be the end of December 2021 at the latest.’ Jon Henley, ‘Brexit : what is the UK’s backstop proposal ?’, The Guardian, 7 June 2018.

10 Financial Times, 30 October 2018. See also O'Leary, B. & Garry, J. ‘While May Must Decide What To Do About Northern Ireland and Brexit...’, Huffington Post, 21 May 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/northern-ireland_uk_ (Accessed March 2019).

11 Irish Times, December 21, 2018.

12 Center for Cross-Border Studies, ‘The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU’, August 2018, at http://crossborder.ie/site2015/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Briefing-Paper-4.pdf (accessed March 2019).

13 Todd, J., The vulnerability of a quasi-constitutonal settlement (2014). Available at https://www.ucd.ie/ibis/filestore/Todd%20The%20vulnerability%20of%20a%20quasi-constitutional%20settlement%2030%20Sept%202014%20.pdf (accessed March 2019).

14 Cauvet, P., ‘Deterritorialisation, Reterritorialisation, Nations and States: Irish Nationalist Discourses on Nation and Territory before and after the Good Friday Agreement’, GeoJournal, Vol. 76, no. 1, 2011, pp. 77–91.

15 Todd, J., ‘Contested Constitutionalism? Northern Ireland and the British–Irish Relationship since 2010', Parliamentary Affairs, Vol. 70, Issue 2, April 2017, pp. 301–321.

16 Durkan, M., House of Commons Debates, 7/12/2016, <https://hansard.parliament.uk (accessed 10/12/18).

17 To see the full text of the Supreme Court judgement, go to https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2016-0196-judgment.pdf (accessed March 2019).

18 McCrudden, C. & Halberstam, D., ‘Miller and Northern Ireland: A Critical Constitutional Response’ in D. Charry (ed), The UK Supreme Court Yearbook, Cambridge, Appellate Press, 2018, pp. 299-343.

19 Wolff, S. & Cordell, K.,‘Consociationalism’, in Wolff, S. & Cordell K., (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict: Second Edition, London, Routledge, 2016, pp. 289-299.

20 For a defence of the Northern Irish consociational model of democracy, see the works by Brendan O'Leary and John McGarry. For example, O'Leary, B., A Treatise on Northern Ireland. Volume III: Consociation and Confederation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019, 512p.

21 Whiting, M., ‘Moderation without Change: The Strategic Transformation of Sinn Féin and the IRA in Northern Ireland’, Government and Opposition, Vol. 53, no. 2, 2018, pp.288-311.

22 For a study of the SDLP, see Cauvet, P., Postnationalism, moderate nationalism and a shared Northern Ireland: The case of the SDLP (Forthcoming).

23 For the number of seats won by each party on these different elections, see graph of NIA election results at https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/implications-northern-ireland-election-results.

24 The Atlantic, 23 April 2019.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/04/moderates-northern-ireland-good-friday-agreement/587764/.

25 Shirlow P., ‘Northern Ireland: A Reminder form the Present’, in Coulter C. & Coleman S., (eds), The End of Irish History? Critical Approaches to the Celtic Tiger, Macmillan, 2003. p. 235-258; Wilford, R. & Wilson, R., A Route to Stability, Belfast, Democratic Dialogue, August 2003, 22p., https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/dd/papers/dd03agreview.pdf (Accessed March 2019).

26 https://www.executiveofficeni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/execoffice/Letter%20to%20PM%20from%20FM%20%26%20dFM.pdf.

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Philippe Cauvet, « ‘It’s not just the economy, stupid !’
Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish border conundrum », Observatoire de la société britannique, 24 | 2019, 105-118.

Référence électronique

Philippe Cauvet, « ‘It’s not just the economy, stupid !’
Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish border conundrum », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 24 | 2019, mis en ligne le 01 mai 2020, consulté le 07 août 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/osb/3276 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/osb.3276

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Philippe Cauvet

Maître de conférences à l'Université de Poitiers

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