The Brexit Countdown Series: Some concluding thoughts, and an appeal

Guest post by Muiris MacCarthaigh, President of the PSAI, and Feargal Cochrane, Vice-Chair of the PSA. This article concludes the blog series ‘Brexit Countdown’ by the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) and Political Studies Association (PSA).

This closing editorial marks the end of the joint PSA-PSAI Brexit Countdown Blog series. Why 27 blogs? This number was picked to symbolise the 27 member-states that would remain within the EU when the UK left. We timed it to countdown from 27 days out on the assumption that ‘Brexit meant Brexit’ and the UK would be out of the EU at 11pm today, the 29th of March.

When we set out the genesis and rationale for the PSA-PSAI Brexit Countdown Blog series in our Introductory blog a few weeks ago, we noted the political uncertainties ahead, the possibility of an extension to Article 50, and the potential need for a Plan B for the series. If the whole Brexit saga has taught us anything — it is that normal laws of political gravity do not apply as they once used to.

One (prescient, as it turned out) option was to extend the series if there was a delay — and this was entirely feasible given the number of offers we have had from colleagues to write a blog for the series since we first announced it. However, we decided to stick to Plan A as long as we could, and so this blog represents the last in the Series.

Unlike the Brexit process itself, the rollout of the 27 Brexit Countdown blogs has run smoothly, in large part due to the trojan work of Luke Field at the Irish Politics Forum and Sydney Budgeon and Nicole Johnson at the PSA to keep the production line oiled, but also of course to the diligence of our contributors, to whom we must extend a (dare we say it!) vote of thanks. It is a testament to the expertise and commitment of members of both Associations, and indicative of the seriousness of Brexit as an issue, that no one we approached to write a blog declined our invitation.

The blog series itself has covered a lot of ground and has provided much sobering food for thought about the future. For anyone teaching British politics, it is going to take some time to revise lectures notes and presentations, as we reappraise everything we thought we understood about British constitutional practice and the ‘rules’ of political engagement at Westminster.

Having already taken an increasing share of its political and administrative energy to date, the island of Ireland looks set to be the first casualty of the inability to resolve the Brexit conundrum in London. The respected Economic and Social Research Institute predict no good economic outcome for the Republic of Ireland arising from Brexit, while ever more dire warnings emerge from the Northern Ireland Civil Service and Northern Ireland section of the Confederation of British Industry. And all of this as Brexit hobbles any chance to get power-sharing back at Stormont.

Brexit has brought to the fore questions about Irish unity and the status of devolution in Scotland, Wales and England. It has also raised questions about the future of EU-UK, Anglo-Irish and Irish-EU relations. The blog series has also raised questions in respect of gender, culture and young people’s perspectives on Brexit.

Our Brexit Countdown blog series ends with a reaffirmation of the call emerging from our meeting last May in Belfast — that whatever constitutional and political changes occur, Brexit has demonstrated the need for both learned Associations to broaden and deepen the scope of relationships between us.

There is a clear need for greater common awareness of the politics and government within and across these islands amongst academics as well as the political classes. If any positives are to emerge from Brexit, they may be that new efforts are made to address this need.

This blog series has demonstrated the depth of research expertise across both Associations and it is our intention to put them together into a single PDF, which will be archived on both the PSA and PSAI websites.

We look forward to discussing how we can now advance the PSA-PSAI relationship at the upcoming PSA Annual Conference in Nottingham, and the PSAI Annual Conference later this year in Maynooth.

Muiris MacCarthaigh, President, PSAI

Feargal Cochrane, Vice-Chair, PSA

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Dr Muiris MacCarthaigh is Senior Lecturer at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen’s University Belfast. He is also President of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI). He tweets @MuirisMac.

Professor Feargal Cochrane is Professor of International Conflict Analysis in the School of Politics and International Relations and is Director of the Conflict Analysis Research Centre (CARC). He is also Vice-Chair of the Political Studies Association (PSA). He tweets @fecochrane1.

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