Arlene Foster claims it is the “UK’s biggest economic opportunity for decades” while Martin McGuinness warns it will be “a disaster for the people of Ireland.” Conchúr Dowds looks at how Brexit could affect Northern Ireland (NI).
It isn’t the first time that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have disagreed and it definitely won’t be the last. With Theresa May confirming that Article 50 will be triggered in March, many in NI now fear the repercussions of Brexit.
Commentators argue that the re-introduction of a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland would put North-South relations under strain, endangering both the Peace Process and the economic dividends of peace.
Writing for the Guardian, Foster (who may or may not be on fire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b39yQp-G7I0) said that Brexit means Brexit for all of the UK, including NI. “There are the fantasies that Brexit will be overturned,” she continued. “It won’t be.”
McGuinness, speaking to the Guardian, claimed that the EU referendum risks undermining the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – the corner stone of the peace process following the Troubles.
However, the NI High Court rejected an attempt to challenge Brexit on the grounds that there was nothing in the Good Friday Agreement to prevent the government triggering Article 50. Sinn Fein said it would study the judgment carefully and explore every option to ensure the ‘remain’ vote was respected.
Furthermore, a second Scottish independence referendum could have major knock-on effects for Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein has already called for a vote on the reunification of the island but many consider this will only come about if Scotland is successful in achieving independence.
Despite their fundamental differences, the duo did manage to present a united front as they left Downing Street last week. Emerging from a Brexit summit, both stressed the need to address the state’s “unique circumstances.”
With 55% of the state’s population voting to remain, NI is the second-most pro-EU region in the UK following Scotland. With this, there is no doubt that parties will have to put their differences aside to ensure they achieve the best deal possible for NI. Whether or not they will remain is to be seen.
By Conchúr Dowds