Timeline: Brexit’s Divisive Story in Northern Ireland

The battle over Britain’s exit from the European Union continues to plague the region’s politics and economy. Central to the fight is the one place the United Kingdom and EU share a land border – the 310-mile-long division between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

With its estimated 300 major and minor border crossings, a “hard” border with customs stations and passport checks would be logistically nightmarish in the best of scenarios. However, this border also has a bloody and turbulent history. The division between North and South in Ireland fueled decades of violence among paramilitary groups. These organizations have pushed for unification with Ireland and others, demanding closer ties to England. Approximately 3,500 people died in what was labeled “The Troubles,” and much of that violence centered on the border. During this period, civilians and militia members were left dead on bridges, while both sides attacked border crossings for years with no sign of stopping.

Despite this turbulent history, the debate over the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union focused little on what would be the only land border between the two entities.

Two of our student reporters, Addie Slanger and Erin Sargent, dug into how Northern Ireland played in the Bexit debate and produced this timeline as background.

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