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The negotiations for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union: What do they mean for relations within and between these islands?

Posted On: 09 Aug 2017

East-West North-South Northern Ireland

With the electorate having voted on the 23rd of June 2016 to leave the European Union, and the Prime Minister, Theresa May, formally notifying the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, on the 29th of March 2017 of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw, negotiations between the UK Government and the European Union on the UK’s withdrawal began on the 19th of June. Their outcome is likely to determine future relations between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland, between the island of Ireland and Great Britain, and between these islands and the European Union.

The purpose of this report, therefore, is to evaluate how those relations are framed within the approaches to the negotiations being taken by the main players involved, and to suggest how to safeguard North-South and East-West relations in the post-Brexit context. This report forms part of the Centre for Cross Border Studies’ ongoing work on Brexit, which has included a series of Briefing Papers published in collaboration with Cooperation Ireland prior to the June 2016 referendum, as well as additional Briefing Papers and submissions to various relevant inquiries following its outcome. All our work on this topic, as well as reports and other relevant material produced by others can be found on our dedicated webpage at

However, given that the core mission of the Centre for Cross Border Studies is to contribute to the increased social, economic and territorial cohesion of the island of Ireland by promoting, advocating and providing support for cross-border cooperation, our focus here will be informed by that mission and cannot, therefore, be exhaustive. Nevertheless, the issues raised here are complex and interrelated, and their ultimate impact on the future shape of relations within, between and beyond these islands cannot be determined definitively until the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal come to a conclusion.

We will begin, then, by outlining the main points raised in the approaches to the negotiations published to date by the principal actors involved, before identifying common concerns and potential areas of divergence. Our analysis is based on the formal positions adopted prior to the commencement of negotiations, as well as the additional material supplied by the UK Government and the European Commission following the first two negotiating rounds. This report will conclude by proposing some possible avenues to secure socio-economic relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and between the island of Ireland and Great Britain, as well as the extent to which these may be compatible with relations with the European Union.

Download PDFThe Centre for Cross Border Studies