Earlier this year marked a breakthrough moment for the politics of Northern Ireland. After three years without a functioning executive, the Northern Ireland Assembly was finally restored in January.
Since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, the country’s politics have been characterized by a complex - and at times fragile and interrupted - power-sharing agreement between nationalist and unionist parties. Power sharing has now returned at a critical moment, amid an unprecedented economic and health crisis and as the the end of the Brexit transition approaches, and the UK and EU prepare to implement the Irish Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement. The scale of the COVID-19 epidemic and the differing approaches to controlling it among the nations of the UK have re-energized the debate around devolution, while Brexit has prompted growing discussion about Northern Ireland’s place in the union of the UK.
How prepared is Northern Ireland for the transition period to end in December 2020? Does the existing model of devolution work for Northern Ireland? What will be the long-term implications of Brexit for its politics? And how should the relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland evolve outside of the EU?
Rt Hon Julian Smith MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (2019-20); Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Chief Whip) (2017-19)
Chair: Thomas Raines, Director, Europe Programme, Chatham House