Queen's Policy Engagement

Northern Ireland and the Withdrawal Agreement

Dr Katy Hayward and Professor David Phinnemore reflect on the UK Withdrawal Agreement, particularly on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland and the Withdrawal Agreement

When the latest draft of the Withdrawal Agreement went online on Wednesday evening, it was to the innocuously titled Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland that many analysts and commentators turned.

In these 29 pages, buried in the middle of a weighty text of 585 pages, lay the purported cause of the cabinet resignations and no confidence letters that troubled Theresa May in the immediate wake of its publication.

Why? Well, the Protocol and its ten associated annexes contain the essence and detail of the ‘backstop’ provisions. Controversial for some, welcomed by others, this backstop, if triggered at the end of the transition period, will be the means by which a hard border on the island of Ireland is avoided.

Much of the controversy around the backstop assumes that it will be the final landing zone of the UK-EU relationship.

But the Withdrawal Agreement is very clear: the EU and the UK will ‘use their best endeavours’ (Protocol, Article 2(1)) to find agreement by the end of 2020 that avoids the need to trigger the Protocol.

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Article first appeared on The UK in a Changing Europe site. 


Dr Katy Hayward is a Reader in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast. She has particular expertise on cross-border cooperation and management, focusing on the case study of Ireland/Northern Ireland and the impact of EU membership. For more information and links to some of her recent publications, please see her Queen’s homepage: https://go.qub.ac.uk/hayward



Professor David Phinnemore
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David Phinnemore is Professor of European Politics and Jean Monnet Chair in European Political Science in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen's University Belfast. Professor Phinnemore's research interests cover EU treaty reform, EU enlargement, EU external relations and alternatives to EU membership, particularly association.

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