The Fragile Future of the United Kingdom


Banners posted outside Parliament in the people’s attempt to share their voice on the issue (AP Photo / Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Bella Rock, Reporter

The 1921 Irish War of Independence against Great Britain led to the creation of a Northern and Southern Ireland, the North remaining in the UK, and the South becoming the Republic of Ireland.

While more peace has been created, over the years, the two still remain divided. However, there has always been the lingering hope amongst Irish nationalists that their dream of reunification could become a reality. This hope grows as the possibility of such reunification increases.

As of January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom has left the European Union. After years of discussion, British Parliament decided to formally leave the European Union. Brexit, the term for “British exit,” has been debated for many years in the United Kingdom.

However, the official leaving of the European Union reignites Northern Ireland’s debate of leaving the United Kingdom and uniting with the Republic.

Part of the rationale behind leaving lies in Northern Ireland’s economic dependency on the European Union. The European Union has supplied Northern Ireland with over 600 million pounds, 780 million USD, for agricultural and economic growth as well as peace initiatives with the Republic of Ireland.

Additionally, the current open trade border between Northern and Southern Ireland creates 3.4 billion pounds, 4.4 billion USD, worth of annual exports. If Northern Ireland remained in the United Kingdom, it would be increasingly challenging to keep exports at this value.

This leaves Northern Ireland left in a crisis of questioning its identity and whether or not to stay in the United Kingdom. Factors of the struggle stem from the fact that many in Northern Ireland felt unheard and unconsidered in this issue.

Back in 2016, when the United Kingdom held a vote surrounding Brexit, a 55.8% majority of the Northern Ireland population voted to remain in the European Union; however, the majority of the United Kingdom voted to leave.

These contrasting viewpoints on the issue, lead to many in Northern Ireland asking for a “border poll,” where citizens would vote on whether or not to reunify with the Republic of Ireland due to the population feeling unheard, with the then Northern Ireland deputy leader Martin McGuinness stating, “the British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North” and “that there is a democratic imperative for a ‘border poll.’” Demand for a “border poll” is reemerging with Brexit coming into actuality.