Brexit as meteor theory
External shocks to peace settlements
in Breaking peace
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This chapter connects the empirical focus of the book on the Brexit negotiations to a wider theoretical outlook on the dynamics of peacebuilding. The chapter introduces a new conceptual focus located within a conflict transformation approach by focusing on the significance of unexpected exogenous shocks to largely endogenous political agreements. The argument in this chapter is that Brexit presents a novel example of the need to provide peacebuilding shock absorbers that can withstand fundamental unforeseen circumstances – meteors – that hit peace processes with the potential to knock them off their axes and change the opportunity structures of endogenous actors.

This chapter positions subsequent chapters in terms of how Brexit should be understood in its impacts on political conflict in Northern Ireland. It is intended to provide conflict studies scholars with an example of the need for greater flex and adaptability within conflict environments. Brexit was a meteor in the context of the Northern Ireland peace process – no one understood when they were negotiating how normal political gravity would be affected when it hit the political atmosphere in June 2016. This chapter widens the lens outwards from Northern Ireland and Brexit, to bigger debates concerning conflict analysis and the architecture of peacebuilding.

Breaking peace

Brexit and Northern Ireland

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