Brexit and Territorial Preferences: Evidence from Scotland and Northern Ireland

Primary Author or Creator:
Lesley-Ann Daniels
Additional Author(s) / Creators
Alexander Kuo
Publius: The Journal of Federalism
Date Published:
Type of Resource:
Academic Paper
Length (Pages, words, minutes etc...)
Fast Facts

The harder the border with EU, the more popular support in Scotland's independence is indicated. It follows the sentiment toward the EU closely.  In Northern Ireland the support for unification follows religious lines.

More details

Has the UK referendum to leave the EU (Brexit) affected territorial preferences within the UK? We draw on comparative theories of such preferences to address this question, as Brexit can be seen as a shock to a political unit. We test hypotheses in two key regions, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with original surveys fielded at a unique time (September 2019). We randomize making salient different Brexit scenarios and measure support for Scottish independence and unification with Ireland within each region. We find in Scotland the prospect of leaving the EU increases support for independence. This effect is pronounced among those who support the UK remaining in the EU. In Northern Ireland, religious background correlates highly with territorial views, and we find little evidence of Brexit or border-scenario effects. Our results contribute to the literature on decentralization processes and the EU, and provide evidence of when negative shocks affect such preferences.

Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Volume 51, Issue 2, Spring 2021, Pages 186–211,