Giving a voice to local communities on the impact of Brexit

Although the UK has now left EU, the full impact of Brexit and the NI Protocol on the Irish border area remains undefined, with answers to many questions remaining outstanding. ICBAN developed a Policy Paper on Brexit in March 2017, noting and respecting the differing political positions of our Management Board. It was agreed that the organisation would work towards highlighting any opportunities or concerns and to withstand any negative consequences arising from the Brexit process.

Having identified an absence of community consultation on both sides of the border, ICBAN together with Queen’s University Belfast have published three survey initiatives to date.

ICBAN is currently undertaking research with a small team from Queen’s University Belfast, as part of the ‘Border Catalyst’ Project. ‘The Border After Brexit’ initiative includes an online survey and focus groups/interviews that will take place in early summer 2021. The fourth report in this series of research will be published in autumn 2021, and as before will be widely disseminated to key stakeholders involved in, or with an interest in Brexit and the Irish border.

The previous study, entitled ‘The Border into Brexit’ completed in December 2019. This report focused on the recent developments and discussions on the issue of the Irish border, including the potential of a ‘No Deal’ scenario. The initiative included an online survey, along with a series of focus groups and engagements with key stakeholders. The final report ‘The Border into Brexit’ was recently published. Similar to the previous studies, this report will be presented to both the UK and Irish governments, as well as EU structures involved in the Brexit process.

The second study, ‘Brexit at the Border’ was published in June 2018. This report also gave a voice to border citizens and undertook to record those voices – through both an online survey and a series of focus groups. The resultant report highlighted the hopes and fears of border citizens in a post-Brexit world and the overriding need to protect a hard-won and valued peace. The study was referenced in over 120 media publications worldwide and a research video was also produced.

The initial report, ‘Bordering on Brexit: The views of local communities in the Central Border Region of Ireland/Northern Ireland’ was released in November 2017. The report presented eight core findings that are highly relevant to the Brexit negotiations. It gained significant coverage in local, national and international media, and was widely referenced across the UK, Ireland and Europe, as well as in Egypt and India.

There have been 1,500 responses to these research initiatives to date. ICBAN has ensured those voices were heard by disseminating the reports to those involved in high-level negotiations, including the EU’s negotiating team and the UK and Irish governments.