This year marks Northern Ireland’s centenary. But, given the effects of Brexit, few are betting on there being a 125th birthday.
While post-Brexit talk of UK disintegration focuses on the more immediate risk of Scottish independence, the narrative rarely excludes the province. And with good reason. The Brexit terms keep Northern Ireland inside the EU customs union and single market for goods, weakening its legal and commercial ties to the UK.
The first weeks of Brexit have amplified this. British retailers halted some supplies while they grappled with the new trade rules. Customs checks stymied hauliers with multiple loads, and there are fears over the looming expiry of a grace period on health certification for food products.
While ruling out an early push for reunification, the Irish Republic is playing a long game. The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, has created a Shared Island initiative, with €500m for cross-border projects. Dublin also took on the cost of keeping Northern Irish students in the EU’s Erasmus university exchange scheme, another tie to the youth of the North.
The strategy is plain: polls show higher support for unification among younger voters.
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