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Researchers from Queen’s University have been awarded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Brexit Priority Grants, for research into the impact and consequences of Brexit in Northern Ireland.

The ESRC is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues, supporting independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and civil society.

Twenty five research grants were awarded to universities throughout the UK as part of the ESRC’sThe UK in a Changing Europeinitiative. Two Queen’s projects – ‘Brexit and Northern Ireland: The Constitutional, Conflict Transformation, Human Rights and Equality Consequences’ and The UK/Ireland Border and the Stability of Peace and Security in Northern Ireland: Evidence from two Deliberate Democracy Exercises’ – have received funding.

Professor Colin Harvey from the School of Law is leading the project on ‘Brexit and Northern Ireland: The Constitutional, Conflict Transformation, Human Rights and Equality Consequences’, collaborating with leading researchers from Ulster University and the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) to examine the consequences of Brexit for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and is the region of the UK most likely to be negatively affected by Brexit. 

The transformation of constitutional and legal relationships between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Britain flowing from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 1998 was premised on background assumptions about common membership of the EU. The UK-wide vote to leave the EU is unsettling for the peace process, and has already proven constitutionally destabilising in and beyond Northern Ireland.

Professor Harvey, said: “I am pleased to be working on this collaborative project with colleagues at Queen’s, Ulster University and CAJ. Brexit is challenging many of the fundamentals of constitutional relationships across these islands. This project intends to advance knowledge and understanding as well as provide policy-relevant insights into the constitutional, conflict transformation, human rights and equality consequences. 

“This project will focus particularly on: the Northern Ireland peace process;  North-South relations; border controls and free movement in and between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Britain; xenophobia and racism in Northern Ireland; the impact on socio-economic rights; and wider human rights and equality issues.

“Through our research and public engagement we hope to make a constructive and informed contribution to local and global conversations on the implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland.”

Professor John Garry, from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics is leading the multi-disciplinary project on ‘The UK/Ireland Border and the Stability of Peace and Security in Northern Ireland: Evidence from two Deliberate Democracy Exercises’, working with leading researchers from Queen’s, Nottingham Trent University and University College Dublin.

As the Brexit negotiations proceed, policymakers will be confronted with the challenges of where exactly the post-exit border will lie and how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ it will be. Citizens’ views on these issues will be an important factor for the negotiators to consider.

Professor Garry said: “I am delighted we have received this ESRC Brexit priority grant for the research project. We plan to explore how citizens of Northern Ireland perceive the ‘Brexit’ process and what their views are regarding the implications of Brexit for peace and stability in Northern Ireland. 

“The project will focus on the issue of ‘the border’ and will engage citizens in two deliberative democracy exercises to consider the likely impact of new post-Brexit border arrangements. Our aim is to provide policy makers with balanced and systematic evidence, from citizens, that will inform the policy making process.” 

Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London and Director of the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative, said: “I’m delighted to welcome such a range of leading scholars to our team. These new additions will reinforce the ability of The UK in a Changing Europe to respond to the high demand for accurate, research-based information from politicians, civil servants, journalists, businesses, civil society and the public at this crucial moment for the UK.”

Leading and informing the debate on Brexit, Queen’s has set up an online Brexit Resource Guide, comprising articles and viewpoints by academics on the subject of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Media inquiries to Zara McBrearty, Communications Office at Queen's University Belfast, on telephone + 44 (0)28 9097 3259.

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