A high level conference on ‘Brexit and the Future of British-Irish Relations’ with leading figures in politics, business, journalism and academia will take place at NUI Galway on Thursday, 28 February and Friday, March 1. The event has been co-organised by the University’s Moore Institute, the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and the Mitchell Institute at Queen’s University Belfast.
The challenge of Brexit has engulfed British politics for more than two years, with a major deadline looming for a withdrawal agreement with the EU by Friday, 29 March. Ireland has posed a particular source of difficulty during negotiations – as an EU member state sharing a border with the UK in Northern Ireland.
Crucial questions will be addressed at the conference: Will a ‘hard’ Brexit impose a hard border on the island? Can a deal be struck that the Democratic Unionist Party and the House of Commons will accept? What is the fate of the Good Friday Agreement? Is the ‘backstop’ a necessity or will it prevent the UK’s departure from the EU?
Participants include Mairéad McGuinness, MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament; Robin Barnett, British Ambassador to Ireland; Lisa Chambers, TD, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Brexit; Steve Aiken, Ulster Unionist MLA; Angela Knight, former Tory MP; Professor Kevin O’Rourke, Oxford and author of A Short History of Brexit; Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, RTÉ and author of Brexit & Ireland; Carlo Trojan, former Secretary General of the European Commission and head of the EU task force on Northern Ireland; John McGrane, British and Irish Chamber of Commerce; and Professor Mary Daly, UCD/RIA.
The conference will feature five panels with contributions from participants and a Q&A on:
The European Project
Politics and Populism
Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement and the Border
The Future of British-Irish Relations
In addition, Mairéad McGuinness will give a special address at 5.30pm on Thursday, 28 February as part of the event.
Commenting on the event, Professor Daniel Carey, Director of the Moore Institute at NUI Galway, said Brexit is the crucial event of our times, with the potential to bedevil British and Irish relations for years to come.
“This gathering of distinguished participants is a vital opportunity to develop our understanding of the issues connected with this all-important redefinition of Ireland’s relationship with its key neighbour. Trade, peace, and security are all at stake in Northern Ireland’s role in Brexit.”
Professor Patrick Griffin, Director of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, said they are delighted to partner with NUI Galway and QUB on what is turning out to be the defining question for this generation of people living in Britain and Ireland. Addressing the challenges of Brexit will require imagination and many more of the sorts of discussions we hope to foster at this conference.”
The event is free and open to the public, with registration on Eventbrite at:brexitfuturerelations.eventbrite.com.
The two-day event will take place at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUI Galway.