The list of strategic oversights on the part of those who advocated the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, known as ‘Brexit’ is dauntingly long. One of the least-discussed challenges, but perhaps the most significant, is the loss of the EU as a conflict-resolution mechanism. Brexiteers appear to have assumed, rather complacently, that this was a question for other European countries, and not for Britain. In doing so, they overlooked a conflict not yet fully resolved – and a peace not yet fully consolidated – at home.
The EU was crucial to the formation of the 1998 Belfast Agreement (known as the Good Friday Agreement) formally ending the deeply rooted armed conflict that had plagued Northern Ireland for 25 years (popularly, ‘the Troubles’). The full implementation of that agreement was delayed until 2005 due to the restiveness of armed Irish republicans and the mistrust of the province’s pro-British majority. Scarcely a decade later, Brexit has helped propel republicans to their strongest electoral performance ever in Northern Ireland – where 56% voted to remain in the EU – and has perhaps placed peace itself at risk.