“How far can the Northern Ireland Protocol limit Brexit’s economic damage?”, Andrew Blick (The Federal Trust, United Kingdom)

No version of Brexit avoids disruption for Northern Ireland and the peace process. Furthermore, it is inherent in the logic of UK departure from the European Union that, far from seeking to minimise this impact, it should augment the risks to the region. The concept of sovereignty – however defined – was always a key feature of Euroscepticism, and in 2016 the ‘leave’ campaign presented its cause in terms of a reassertion of this quality on the part of the UK. The UK government has now seemingly chosen this term as the keyword of the latest instalment in the Brexit process. In keeping with its fundamentalist approach to political messaging, it deploys the term in efforts to trump the realities of negotiation from a position of disadvantage in which the UK has placed itself. When spokespeople for the UK government refer to sovereignty, they have in mind a particular version of it: that a country either possesses it absolutely, or does not at all, and that it cannot be shared or qualified. Moreover, they treat the absolute necessity of maintaining sovereignty so defined as axiomatic. It is, as they present it, both the objective of the process from the UK standpoint, and the reason that the EU must bow to UK demands.

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