A referendum on whether the United Kingdom should exit the European Union could have a big impact in Northern Ireland. The so-called Brexit vote could come as early as this summer or get pushed deep into 2017. The International Business Times writes:
Economists and politicians opposed to leaving the European Union warn that a Brexit would fracture Northern Irish peace by further isolating it from the Republic of Ireland and cutting off local communities from international funding, sending ripple effects throughout the U.K. Supporters of a Brexit, however, said Northern Ireland already has systems in place to continue political and economic relationships with Ireland, facilitating an easy transition out of the EU.
The Irish Times adds that the Republic also has a great deal riding on the Brexit result. The concerns stem primarily from the close economic ties between the two states, particularly in two areas.
First, the UK is by some distance the Republic’s largest trading partner, accounting for 43 per cent of exports by Southern firms in 2012. Second, the two countries’ energy markets are deeply entwined: Ireland imports 89 per cent of its oil products and 93 per cent of its gas from its nearest neighbor.
Meanwhile, this year’s 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in the Republic is also causing concerns about the North. The Guardian reports:
“…the centenary of the rebellion in Dublin has raised fears that celebrating the exploits of the lightly armed rebels who took on the British army could destabilize the still fragile peaceful political settlement in Northern Ireland, with dissident republicans claiming they are the true inheritors of Easter Week 1916. … Unionists and some historians have expressed concern that the centenary may be used by anti-peace process republicans to claim the 1916 rebellion is “unfinished business.”