Next week, we will be taking part in an event looking at Nationalism in a Brexit world. Something that caught my eye during the week were remarks by the SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood to the British/Irish Association last weekend.
In his speech he spoke about the situation for Northern Ireland and Nationalism in post EU membership environment.
Eastwood argued that Brexit had implications for the Good Friday Agreement;
However, if the British Government continues down the road of dragging the North out of the EU against our will, it is important to understand that there will be broader consequences than simply an end to EU membership. By repeating the meaningless mantra that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, the new British Prime Minister is wielding an axe of simplicity into the layered complexities of the Irish political process. In so doing, she is putting at risk the very foundation of our accommodation. She is ripping apart the ‘totality of relationships’ which was the genesis of our path to progress. That raises fundamental questions for everyone in Northern Ireland. It also raises fundamental questions for the British and Irish governments. A post Brexit world could also be a post Good Friday Agreement world.
The implications for Nationalism he argues opens up some old issues;
Northern nationalists are once more a restless people. The constitutional accommodation which we voted for by referendum in 1998 has been violated, not by a vote of the people of Northern Ireland, but rather by a vote of others in the UK 18 years later. The blanket of that constitutional comfort has been abruptly removed. In particular, undermining our connection with the South achieved via common EU membership is not something which can be tolerated.
Eastwood also took aim at the Leave campaign;
They told a story of decisions being dictated by far away people and politicians with no connection or rightful authority to the places over which they prescribed their power. They summed it up in a clever and cutting soundbite – Take back control. To all those Brexiteers now at the heart of the British Government, Irish nationalism says this– we know how you feel. No one should therefore be surprised if in the wake of Brexit ‘Taking Back Control’ is precisely what we in the North now intend to do.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs