Generation Brexit


The aim of the Generation Brexit blog is give voice to British and European millennials in the Brexit debate.

We invite all LSE undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as students from our partner universities, to contribute to the blog with reference to one of the challenges on the platform.

We welcome blog posts that draw on your ongoing subject of study and/or research, but also those that tackle other issues, such as employment prospects, immigration status, and funding that may be affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, as well as visions for the future UK/EU relationship.

Submissions, in a Word or Word-readable document and stating your name, course, and year of study should be sent to


Dualities of the Irish border: two countries and two freedoms

Posted by Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz (Admin) Mar 12, 2018

What to expect from the divorce agreement and what are the issues at stake? The Irish border has been a place of tension for almost all the 20th century. The EU helped to stabilise the peace process between republican and unionist inhabitants. But Brexit is threatening this peace, write Alexis Chalopin and Sascha Titze.


A revival of the past: bilateral issue and freedoms at stake

The 499km long UK-Ireland border is the only terrestrial border of the European Union with the United Kingdom, but it has a history of its own that has made the issue of how the border will be managed after Brexit a key point of the negotiation mandate of the European Commission from the start. This border has shaped the debate between British and Irish nationalists for a long time. EU Membership of both countries shaped the peace process, but it is only following the Good Friday Agreement between the Irish and British Government signed in 1998, merely 20 years ago, that the border gained its fully open form. Goods and individuals can cross the border easily, and since 2005 the agreement has been fully implemented, and the few last military checkpoints have been dismantled. The only meaningful difference that one can make now by crossing the Irish border is that one has to change cash to euros or pounds. Nothing else.

To some extent, this open border is helping to maintain the status quo between the two parts of Ireland. The results of the last general election in the United Kingdom revealed the timorousness of Northern Irish voters as the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) gained a record number of 10 seats. Their support agreement for Theresa May’s cabinet is giving them a weight on the Irish question that may put into question any decision on this very sensitive issue. On the EU side, Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for Brexit, explained that the decision relative to the border will not be made by the Commission without the formal approval of Merion Square. Finally, the question regained its bilateral strength. Hence, the strategy around the border concerns both the future of the Island of Ireland and the nature of the Brexit deal.

Reinstalling hard borders would mean hard Brexit (no access to the Single Market and no freedom of movement for EU citizens other than Irish) and revival of old tensions while the continuation of the open border would mean soft Brexit but would force the United Kingdom to stay in the Single Market, or at least the Customs Union.

The current agreement reveals in watermark the nature of Brexit

The current divorce agreement articulates, on the one hand, that there should be no hard border thanks to full alignment with the rules of the single market and at the same time that the UK as a whole, including Northern Ireland, will be leaving the customs union. How this balance should be achieved, however, is yet to be defined in a subsequent agreement specifying the future relationship between the UK and the European Union. It is clear though that a regulatory alignment with the rules of the common market contradicts the idea of a Global Britain taking back control over its laws, money, and borders. The question yet to be answered is whether full alignment will be achieved only for Northern Ireland, or rather the whole UK as the Tories coalition partner DUP does not accept any differentiation across the Irish Sea. Theresa May, therefore, faces a trilemma. Firstly, by respecting the soft Irish border to advance on an agreement about the future of the UK and Europe, secondly, adhering the Brexiteers claim to take back control and thirdly, pleasing her coalition partner that there will be no regulatory divergence between Belfast and the rest of the UK.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Generation Brexit blog, nor the LSE.

Sascha Titze & Alexis Chalopin are MSc Students in Political Economy of Europe at the LSE European Institute.

This post was edited on Mar 13, 2018 by Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz

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Comments (1)

peter d says... Mar 17, 2018

Remembering the troubles visiting northern ireland thru the 60s, 70s & 80s i am terrified of the collapse of the stormont assembly just when northern ireland needs political leadership. Theresa may’s undermining the GFA with her partnership with the DUP is a shocking failure to protect northern irish democracy

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