Brexit day
The result and the fallout
in Breaking peace
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This chapter examines the outcome of the referendum vote on 23 June 2016 and the divisions that both the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ votes in Northern Ireland exposed, both across the political parties and within their respective electorates. The chapter assesses the political fallout from the result and the responses of the main political parties. This period saw the crystallisation of political positions and a shift from campaigning mode towards arguments relating to the democratic legitimacy of the vote and rival interpretations of what it meant in practice.

This chapter also assesses the extent to which the UK government’s response to the referendum result undermined the ‘consent principle’ in Northern Ireland and further complicated confidence in the devolved institutions. It maps out the way in which the result overlapped with the ethnonational divide, with 88% of nationalists voting Remain, compared to 34% of unionists. The chapter assesses the implication of these polarised figures for the wider political process, not least the tensions between Sinn Fein and the DUP up to and beyond the resignation of Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in January 2017 and the subsequent Assembly and Westminster elections of March and June 2017 respectively.

Breaking peace

Brexit and Northern Ireland


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