Why it is impossible for Brexit Britain to 'take back control' in Northern Ireland

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The simplistic understanding of territorial sovereignty behind the Brexitian quest has come to expose the fundamental incompatibility of conflicting identities and sovereign claims over Northern Ireland. The inability to accommodate the complexity, the sharing of sovereignty, the multilevel nature of governance and the complementary nature of identities in Northern Ireland has become increasingly obvious in the debate over Brexit over the subject of the Irish border. The multilevel complexity enabled by the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement of 1998 is flattened by framing Northern Ireland’s ‘choice’ as being between an Irish land border or a sea border, or between being closer to Britain or closer to Ireland. By freshly incentivizing each of two conflicting and mutually defeating quests to match sovereignty and territory in this British–Irish region, the Brexitian vision of returning to a UK of the past could well propel Northern Ireland back several steps into a much-regretted history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-278
JournalTerritory, Politics, Governance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 02 Apr 2020


  • Brexit
  • Border
  • 1998 Agreement


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