Feargal Cochrane and Muiris MacCarthaigh

As the United Kingdom enters the last few weeks before it leaves the European Union, the Political Studies Association (PSA) and the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) felt it incumbent to collectively address what is one of the most important political events of our lifetime. Both learned societies, representing political scientists across ‘these islands’, are primarily concerned with teaching and research in the discipline of politics and as with so many other aspects of life, Brexit raises important questions for the future of our discipline. 

The motivation for this blog series came from a meeting between representatives of both Associations at Queen’s University Belfast last year at which much common ground and concerns were identified. The PSA and PSAI have a close relationship and many of our members are (or have been) in both associations simultaneously and this close relationship will continue (and hopefully intensify) after Brexit. 

This Brexit Countdown Blog Series seeks both to mark the departure of the UK from the EU and also to highlight the range of issues, challenges and opportunities that this throws up for us as a scholarly community and for the societies that we live in. These apply as much to the UK as to Ireland and the series will cover political, economic and cultural perspectives from England, Scotland, Wales, as well as both parts of Ireland.  Indeed if nothing else, the Brexit process has highlighted the need for better understanding of regional and national identities and politics both within and across these islands.


The Blog Series

The series will see 27 Blogs published online by both Associations and these will be archived as a set on the respective PSA and PSAI websites. There will be one blog every working day, for 27 days, from today until the formal departure date on 29thMarch. Why 27 blogs? Because at 11pm on 29thMarch the EU is scheduled to reduce by one, from 28 to 27 member-states.

This is all assuming, of course, that there is no last minute extension to Article 50. If that happens, we will have a plan B or a plan C, depending on the timing. For now, we anticipate that the final blog in the series will be published on the 28thMarch and the next day we will publish an image to symbolise the cessation of the UK’s 46-year membership of the EU. 

The blog series is not intended to be a definitive A-Z guide or compendium of the full gamut of issues facing these islands after Brexit, but it will hopefully provide a stimulating range of perspectives across several of the big issues facing all of us in the years ahead. 

It should also be pointed out that the ideas and opinions expressed in the series are those of the individual scholars themselves and not those of the PSA or PSAI. This is not to run away from any of those issues or arguments – but to reflect the fact that we are pluralist and diverse Associations, with members who will differ and argue with one another about Brexit and many other issues besides. We are trained to be critical, reflective and analytical and anyone who has been to the PSAI or PSA Annual Conferences can attest to how quickly different perspectives can emerge – sometimes within the same individual! So our hope is that this blog series will reflect those traits through the expertise of the contributors and reaffirm the importance of independent academic thought to debates and contributions on post-Brexit politics and government. 


Return of the Experts

During the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016, the former Justice Secretary Michael Gove claimed that people have had enough of experts’. To be fair to Gove, he was referring to economists rather than political scientists, or ‘expertise’ itself as a value. Nonetheless it did tap into an ethos where opinion was valued above evidence-based analysis, with experts being popularly regarded as boffins, nerds or arrogant elitists. While we get busy taking the moat out of our eye on the nerd point – this blog series unashamedly puts experts forward. Regardless of what position we take on Brexit or the fall-out that will result after 29 March, we would argue that we need experts across these islands like never before. 

Our hope is that the scholarly community that is the PSA and PSAI will engage with the blog series as a concept and with the individual pieces themselves, across social and traditional media, so that the voice of political science across these islands and the expertise of its members is heard in the momentous political days that lie ahead - for all of us.


Professor Feargal Cochrane is Professor of International Conflict Analysis in the School of Politics and International Relations and is Director of the Conflict Analysis Research Centre (CARC). He is also Vice-Chair of the Political Studies Association (PSA). He tweets @fecochrane1.

Dr Muiris MacCarthaigh is Senior Lecturer at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen's University Belfast. He is also President of the Political Studies Association Ireland (PSAI). He tweets @MuirisMac.


This article is part of an ongoing blog series ‘Brexit Countdown’ by the Political Studies Association (PSA) and Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI).  


To read the entire series, please see below:

  1. What’s the likely impact of Brexit on Higher Education in Northern Ireland? by Cathy Gormley-Heenan
  2. Brexit and a second Scottish Independence Referendum: What happens next? by Margaret Arnott
  3. What's the difference? British and Irish attitudes towards the EU by Kathryn Simpson
  4. Brexit and devolution in Wales by Roger Awan-Scully
  5. The Backstop: a ‘flexible and imaginative’ solution? by David Phinnemore
  6. Culture, the arts and Brexit by Kate Mattocks
  7. Brexit and implications for Scottish Devolution by Nicola McEwen
  8. Is Brexit propelling Northern Ireland towards Irish unity? by Katy Hayward
  9. Blair and Brexit by John O'Brennan
  10. The looming possibility of a retaliatory relationship between the UK and the EU by Will Phelan
  11. Brexit: Ethnopolitical dimension by Timofey Agarin
  12. Irish-British relations: Preparing for momentous change by Paul Gillespie
  13. Brexit, gender and Northern Ireland: Changing the state-society relationship by Yvonne Galligan
  14. Beyond the backstop: the DUP’s role in Brexit by Jon Tonge
  15. Brexit, political parties & power-sharing in Northern Ireland by Sophie Whiting
  16. Brexit and devolution in England: What's at stake by Arianna Giovannini
  17. What do people in Northern Ireland think about Brexit? by Jamie Pow and John Garry
  18. Brexit, diplomacy and defense by Ben Tonra
  19. Empathy, minorities and Brexit by Richard English
  20. Young people and Brexit: Not all that we think by Emily Rainsford
  21. Is the Backstop a Red Line Too Far? by Etain Tannam
  22. The UK's view of the EU by Simon Usherwood
  23. The invidious impact of Brexit on Ireland's policy landscapes by Mary C. Murphy
  24. Looking into the abyss: A European perspective by Brigid Laffan
  25. Britain after Brexit by Anand Menon
  26. Brexit as Political Irony by Feargal Cochrane
  27. The Brexit Countdown Series: Some concluding thoughts, and an appeal by Muiris MacCarthaigh and Feargal Cochrane