Fearing Brexit

The Changing Face of Europeanization in the Borderlands of Northern Ireland

in Ethnologia Europaea
Author:
Thomas M. Wilson Binghamton University, State University of New York twilson@binghamton.edu

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In the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” referendum in 2016 the majority of votes cast in Northern Ireland were in favor of the UK staying a member state of the European Union. This support was strong, and remains so, in the Northern Ireland borderlands, where ethnographic research shows particularly widespread identification with Europe among Irish nationalists. This article explores ways that Northern Ireland borderlanders see their relatively strong association with the Europe of the EU within the context of the Brexit process that has engulfed all of the people of the British and Irish isles since 2016. Borderlanders fear that Brexit may bring back a “hard border,” which would subvert over twenty years of peace, reconciliation and cross-border economic and political development.

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