Boris Johnson warned Brexit will ‘legitimise’ nationalists pushing for Ireland unification

Brexit will ‘legitimise’ Ireland reunification calls says expert

Brigid Laffan, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, warned Brexit may set a precedent for Irish nationalists to push for independence. The political scientist added a border poll may not be a topic that gains much traction within the next few years but forecast Ireland will want to hold a referendum roughly 15 years from now. She highlighted the impact of the poll would not affect the Irish economy but would severely harm the Good Friday agreement.

Ms Laffan spoke to Ian Mulheirn of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and said: “I fully agree there won’t be a border poll this year, next year, or in five years but there will be a border poll in the next ten years to 15 years.

“And I’m not so sure that it would be, when it happens, a narrow majority for the Union.

“But also what is really dangerous is that Brexit has legitimised major constitutional change on the basis of 52 percent of the electorate.

“So you can never ever tell the nationalists in Northern Ireland 52 percent is not good enough.”

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She continued: “So am I worried about the long-term impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland.

“Yes, I’m far less worried about the economy – the Irish economy is very adaptable it will find a way. But I am very worried about the stability of the political settlement that was the genius of the Good Friday agreement.”

Ms Laffan was also asked if disputes between the UK and EU would mainly be settled by legal action or if there was room for a gentler approach. 

She replied: “The answer to that is we simply don’t know and it will very much depend on, I think, what happens in the UK.

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“So if the UK opts to diverge very significantly then I think the EU will use the legal roots and it will be forced by the capitals to do so.

“If on the other hand, if it’s performative divergence, more in form than in substance, then I think you will get the workings out in all of these sectoral institutionalised committees.”

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have attempted to revive debates regarding an independent Scotland in light of a recent Sunday Times poll.

The survey showed 52 percent of Scots supported the idea of another referendum – the same amount of Brits who voted to leave the EU in 2016.


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The poll also looked at independence for Ireland and Wales with 51 percent supporting a reunited Ireland in the next five years. 

Around 31 percent of Welsh citizens supported their independence despite Wales traditionally identifying as pro-Union. 

Professor John Curtice said the issue of Brexit could lead to the breakup of the UK, saying its unity rests on a “shaky peg”.

The University of Strathclyde professor added: “If you ask people both in Scotland and Northern Ireland whether or not they’re going to be better off or worse off as a result of the UK leaving the European Union you’re going to get even more negative response.

“Brexit to some degree has changed the terms of the debate.”

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