United Kingdom Public Policy
United Kingdom is a country located in the region of Northern Europe. See abbreviation for United Kingdom. The British voters’ refusal to continue EU membership in June 2016 shook the political life. The question of the terms of the UK’s divorce from the EU, Brexit, and what the new relationship with the EU should look like, has since almost overshadowed all other political issues. Boris Johnson, from the Conservative Party, who took over as prime minister in July 2019, promised that Britain would leave the EU by October 31 of that year, but after a power struggle with Parliament, he was forced to ask the EU for more time. That led to a new election in December 2019. The Conservatives won an overwhelming victory, paving the way for Britain’s exit from the EU on 31 January 2020.
Most people were prepared for the divorce between the UK and the EU, but the difficulties were greater than expected. Theresa May, Boris Johnson’s party mate and prime minister, and the EU agreed on an exit agreement in November 2018, but it was voted down by the House of Commons on three separate occasions. The criticism from his own party led May to resign in the summer of 2019.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of United Kingdom, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
It was then speculated that Johnson, who had been among the most outspoken critics of May’s Brexit agreement, wanted to push through an EU exit without an agreement, hoping that the UK could quickly start negotiating new trade agreements with other countries. But in October 2019, Johnson announced that he and the EU had agreed on several key changes to the agreement. An initial reading of a legislative package presented by the government to prepare for EU exit was approved on October 22. But before that, another law, enacted to stop a contractless Brexit, had come into force (see Calendar) and Prime Minister Johnson were forced to ask the EU for postponement until 31 January 2020. This was accepted by the EU. Following the 2019 parliamentary elections, Johnson was able to push through the new exit agreement in Parliament without any major problems, paving the way for a UK exit on 31 January 2020.
The Brexit issue has created serious conflicts within both the Conservative Party and Labor, which have both been divided on the issue. At the same time, the right-wing forces have strengthened their position within the Conservative Party, while the left-wing forces have become more prominent in Labor. Brexit also puts strong pressure on cohesion within the UK, especially as voters in Northern Ireland and Scotland voted in 2016 to remain within the EU.
Corona pandemic has also hit the UK hard. In mid-March, the British government decided to quarantine the country, after a study had indicated that the death toll would be high. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales followed suit, but they chose not to follow London when the restrictions in England began to be eased in May.
Tug of war between the government and parliament
From the beginning, a dispute arose as to what role Parliament should play in the Brexit process. In 2016, then-Prime Minister Theresa May did not want Parliament to decide whether and when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty would be activated to begin withdrawal from the EU. She invoked a so-called royal privilege that gives the government the right to act on foreign policy issues without consulting Parliament, a decision that was challenged from several directions. The Supreme Court ruled in early 2017 that May was not allowed to bypass Parliament. However, several courts have ruled that the UK government did not need the approval of parliaments in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland to begin the exit process.
The government also faced opposition from the upper house which wanted to give the lower house greater power both in what a UK-EU agreement would look like and whether it would be a Brexit or not. There was a tug-of-war between those who acted to give Parliament the right to intervene to make sure Britain would not stand without an agreement in March 2019, and those who felt this made the ongoing negotiations with the EU difficult.
In February 2017, the lower house voted, with a clear majority, to begin the divorce between the UK and the EU. Thereafter, the parties had two years to agree on the terms of a Brexit. May had hoped that the parliamentary elections she had announced in June 2017 would strengthen her position before the negotiations, instead it was the opposite. The Conservative Party lost its majority in the House of Commons and became dependent on support from the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). At the same time, it was clear that the question of what would happen to the Northern Ireland-Ireland border, the only UK-EU land border, was one of the most difficult problems during the negotiations. The situation was made more difficult by the fall of the Northern Ireland provincial government in early 2017 (see Modern history).
The UK and the EU have constantly agreed that no “hard border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland should be established. This is not to risk the fragile balance that prevailed in the UK province since the Northern Ireland peace agreement was signed in 1998. At the same time, the EU insisted on the need for controls at the Union’s external borders. For a long time, the parties tried to put all the problems before them.
Other unresolved issues were the terms of EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa and how much the British would pay to the EU for the divorce.
Negotiations between the UK and the EU went slow and both parties expressed frustration that so little progress was being made. A large number of ministers eventually jumped out of the government in protest at how the talks with the EU were being handled. Boris Johnson, who was May’s Foreign Minister 2016-2018, was among those who most loudly demanded a tougher British line in the Brexit negotiations. A group within the Conservative Party, the European Research Group (ERG) led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, pushed in the same direction. At the same time there was a campaign to bring about a referendum on a brexitavtal, Voice of the People (People’s Vote).
The Labor Party found it difficult to coin the problems of the government and the Conservative Party. The party leadership advocated at the party conference in Liverpool in September 2018 that the party would vote against the government’s proposal for a Brexit settlement, in the hope that Labor would then win a possible new election and thus be able to take control of the process. The party was also shaken by internal contradictions after accusations that Labor, and party leader Corbyn, had not clearly renounced anti-Semitism within the party (see also Calendar).
In November 2018, there was a breakthrough in the Brexit talks, when the UK government and the EU agreed on a preliminary exit agreement (see Calendar) and the rules that would apply during a transitional period that would extend until December 2020.
The year before, the parties had tried to resolve the border issue with a special solution where, in principle, Northern Ireland must continue to comply with EU customs union and internal market rules. However, these rules would only come into force if the UK and the EU failed to reach an agreement where border barriers between Northern Ireland and Ireland could be avoided. The DUP refused to accept this, as the party feared it would loosen ties between Northern Ireland and the rest of the British Union, an affiliation that many Northern Irish Protestants see as a matter of survival. In order to break the deadlock, the British Government now agreed that the entire UK would remain temporarily within the EU Customs Union until the parties agreed on what the cooperation would look like in the future (both of these special solutions are called backstop).
May’s leadership was increasingly questioned, but she still survived the distrust that her own party directed at her (see Calendar). Before the vote, May had stated that she did not intend to stand for re-election in 2022. Her attempts to get the other EU countries to make further concessions were rejected.
Only on January 15, 2019 was the lower house voted on the exit agreement, which was then rejected by a clear majority of members. On March 12 of that year, the next no came, followed by a third at the end of the same month. In between, the House of Commons had voted that it would not be possible for Britain to leave the EU without an agreement, and to ask the EU for more time. The European Council chose to extend the deadline to 31 October 2019, which was more than May had asked for.
May leaves, Johnson takes over
On May 24, 2019, May announced that she would resign as party leader on June 7 but continue as head of government until the party appoints a successor. In July, she succeeded Boris Johnson, who on July 25 took office as the UK’s prime minister. Concerns were now mounting that Britain would leave the EU without a deal, although Johnson denied that he intended it to be so.
In late August, Prime Minister Johnson turned to the Queen to request that she temporarily leave home for Parliament between September 10 and October 13, something she approved on the same day. The prime minister’s political opponents saw this as a way to prevent the opposition from trying to stop a dealless Brexit, while Johnson described it as a way to get started on the government’s new program before the divorce with the EU had been completed. In the United Kingdom, it is common for a new government to temporarily shut down Parliament, what was controversial now was that it was about so long (five weeks) and that it would happen just before the deadline for Brexit expired.
Now a new period of conflict ensued between the government and the parliament, where Johnson had difficulty getting through his politics. When 21 Conservative members voted with the opposition, they were excluded from their party. It also meant that the Northern Ireland party DUP lost its masters role, as the government would not even reach a majority in the lower house with their support.
On September 24, the Prime Minister suffered a severe defeat when the Supreme Court ruled that his decision to leave Parliament had been in breach of the law.
On October 11, the British Government and the EU, which long maintained that they were not prepared to renegotiate, agreed on a new agreement. On most points, the new agreement was identical to what had been negotiated by Theresa May. During a transitional period, which would extend until 31 December 2020, the UK must continue to comply with EU rules and continue to contribute money to the EU budget. With regard to Northern Ireland, the parties agreed on a solution that would include the province, while at the same time including the UK’s customs territory (see also Calendar) will apply some of the EU customs rules. In practice, the agreement meant that a border would be established in the sea between Northern Ireland and the British mainland. The Northern Ireland Parliament, Stormont, will have to vote every four years whether or not this particular solution should remain. The veto right that the DUP had looked for in a previous proposal was now gone. The decision drew strong criticism from the DUP and other Northern Unionists.
Clear election victory for the Conservative Party
In November 2019, following an unsuccessful attempt earlier this fall, Boris Johnson managed to push through a new election until December 12. The Conservative Party’s main slogan during the election campaign was about getting Brexit overblown, while Labor made promises to negotiate a new agreement with the EU and allow British voters to vote on it. Corbyn, however, received criticism for choosing not to openly state where he stood in the Brexit issue. The two major parties also competed to pledge new money to social welfare, not least to the general health service, the NHS. The dissatisfaction is widespread with the harsh austerity policies that the Conservatives have pursued since 2010. Labor also warned that the Conservative Party would allow US companies to enter the UK healthcare market through a new trade agreement with the United States.
At the same time, the Liberal Democrats were trying to win votes for Britain to remain in the EU, should the party win the election. Initially, it seemed that several smaller parties could increase their representation, but the longer the electoral movement went on, the more it seemed to be a fight between the two major parties. In the end, the conservatives’ takeover was as great as the opinion polls had hinted at (read more about the election in the calendar).
After the Conservatives’ election victory, the government succeeded in beating the exit agreement through both chambers of Parliament and the agreement was approved in its final form on January 22, 2020. Thus, the way was open for Britain’s formal exit from the EU on January 31.
The UK is now in a transitional period where the parties will try to negotiate a long series of agreements that will regulate how EU-UK relations will look in the future. On 31 December, the UK also leaves the EU internal market and all EU agreements expire in the country. However, the negotiations that started in spring 2020 were slow. The EU maintains that a new agreement will guarantee that the parties will be able to compete on the same terms, something the UK government does not want to agree to.
New Government in Northern Ireland
In early 2020, Northern Ireland was again granted a provincial government. It happened after the British government threatened to announce new elections on January 13 unless there was a minister in place then. At the last moment, the Northern Ireland parties agreed to a draft agreement that had been formulated by the governments of London and Dublin.
Despite a tough quarantine introduced to prevent the spread of the new corona virus that causes covid-19, the UK has high death rates, until May 17, 2020, nearly 35,000 people had died of the disease, according to official figures. However, it was pointed out that other public statistics indicated that even more, over 40,000 people, had died in covid-19. This is because the many deaths in British nursing homes are not included in the figures presented by the government.
The seriousness of the situation became clear when Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April was forced to seek intensive care after falling ill in covid-19.
The Corona crisis also hit hard on the British economy and the government has introduced a series of support measures for both businesses and individuals financially affected by the pandemic and the restrictions imposed.
The British government has received stinging criticism for how it has handled the pandemic, but still has strong support in public opinion. In the opinion polls conducted in the first half of May 2020, the Conservative Party was supported by between 49 and 51 percent of those polled, while Labor, which changed party leaders in April to Keir Starmer, commuted between 30 and 34 percent. However, the trips around whether Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings violated quarantine rules and the Prime Minister’s unwillingness to dismiss him meant that the government lost support (see Calendar). Support for the Conservative Party had fallen to 43 percent, while Labor climbed to 39 percent.
Follow the ongoing development of the country in the Calendar.
FURTHER READING: Read more about the UK in the UI’s publication Foreign Affairs magazine:
Brexit raises the idea of a united Ireland (2019-02-20)
Unrealistic Britons cause deadlock in Brexit talks (2017-10-15)
Warnings when May invites Northern Ireland unionists (20/06/2017)
FACTS – POLITICS
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland / United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
monarchy, unitary state
Head of State
Queen Elizabeth II (1952–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (2019–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Conservative Party / Tory 365, Labor 203, Scottish Nationalist Party / SNP 48, Liberal Democrats 11, Democratic Unionist Party 8, Sinn Fein 7, Plaid Cymru 4, SDLP 2, Green Party 1, Alliance Party 1 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Conservative Party / Tory 318, Labor 262, Scottish Nationalist Party / SNP 35, Liberal Democrats 12, Democratic Unionist Party 10, Sinn Fein 7, Plaid Cymru 4, Green Party 1, and 1 independent candidate (2017)
about 69% in the 2017 parliamentary elections, 67% in the 2019 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2024
In 1999, Scotland gained some autonomy. But the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), which has been ruling in Edinburgh since 2007, wants to go further than that: that Scotland should become an independent state. However, a majority of voters in Scotland voted no to fully independent in a referendum in September 2014, but the margin was smaller than most people had expected just a few months earlier. The SNP has continued to press for a new referendum on independence to be held, but it is currently unclear whether the Independents could win such a vote.
It was Tony Blair’s Labor government that paved the way for Scots – and Wales – to gain greater autonomy. In 1997, the same year that Blair came to power, referendums were held on it in both Scotland and Wales. But it was not a heart issue for Labor, on the contrary, several of the party’s leading Scottish politicians opposed it being held. Instead, the party was driven by the need to stay well with any collaborative partners you might need later on. After 18 years in opposition, many Labor politicians doubted that their party could win a British election on their own.
The Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, has 129 members appointed for a term of four years. Originally, the autonomous government was mandated to decide on issues related to agriculture, fisheries, economic development, housing, the environment, education and care, while the London government retained control over constitutional issues, foreign policy, defense, labor market, social welfare and the right to levy taxes. However, the Scots were given the right to raise or lower the income tax by up to three percent.
Since then, Scottish self-government has been given the right, among other things, to increase the reimbursement levels for child support, unemployment benefit and other grants and to design new forms of grants in the areas it is responsible for. Scotland also receives a larger proportion of the taxes collected there. From April 2017, half of the VAT paid in Scotland will go to the Scottish Government’s budget.
Shifting in power
In 1999–2007 Scotland was ruled by a coalition between Labor (which has traditionally been strong in Scotland) and the Liberal Democrats. The 2007 election led to a regime change as the SNP became the largest party with 47 of the 129 seats. SNP leader Alex Salmond formed a minority government and already promised that the Scots would vote for independence, but failed to win enough support for the cause in the Scottish Parliament. However, the SNP’s chances of getting a referendum increased since the party won its own majority in the elections in May 2011. This happened despite the fact that the election system is designed so that it will be almost impossible to get it.
The SNP would win with such clear figures was not expected. In the election to the British Parliament the year before, Labor had received 42 percent of the Scottish vote, more than twice as much as the SNP. The dissimilar results explained to political judges that a majority of Scottish voters considered Labor more likely to represent them in Parliament in London, while they thought the SNP represented them better at home.
The SNP wanted the Scots to vote on both full independence and increased self-government, something the London government did not agree with. Opinion polls indicated that although a Scot of three advocated independence, the majority wanted Scotland to remain within the UK but with greater powers for Holyrood.
Yes or no to independence
A settlement between the government in London and the one in Edinburgh was finalized in October 2012, when the SNP agreed that voters would only be allowed to vote yes or no to independence. Cameron refused to negotiate in advance what conditions would apply if Scotland chose to break away.
Everyone who was written in Scotland was allowed to vote in the elections, regardless of citizenship, while Scots in the rift had no voting rights (this also applied to the approximately 800,000 Scots living in other parts of the UK). In addition, the voting age was reduced to 16 years.
In its campaign, the SNP emphasized that the independence struggle was not about “ethnic nationalism” but about “civic nationalism”, that people living in a place should be able to decide for themselves about their future, regardless of ethnic background.
There were several difficult questions to solve before a possible yes. One was about who the oil and gas deposits in the North Sea would belong to. Another what would happen to the nuclear-armed submarines at the Faslan base on the west coast of Scotland. The SNP’s line was that no nuclear weapons should be allowed to exist in an independent Scotland. Another question was how much of the British government debt the Scots would bring.
In March 2013, the Scottish Government nailed the date of the referendum to September 18, 2014. In conjunction with it, SNP leader Salmond said that Scotland would retain the British monarch as head of state, as well as the British pound as currency. The SNP had changed foot in the fall before, and now pleaded for an independent Scotland to remain within NATO’s defense alliance, which the party had previously opposed. The issue was sensitive, much because of the link with the nuclear weapons.
Salmond hinted that Scotland would automatically become an EU member, but soon got bumped. EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso highlighted that a new Scottish state would have to apply for membership and be approved as a member of all other EU states.
The Yes campaign (Yes Scotland) got a push because more and more Scots, many of them from grassroots movements on the left, were engaged in a Yes. They gave an optimistic picture of what a new and radical Scotland, open to the outside world, might look like. The No campaign, in which the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and Labor, gathered under the name Better Together, emerged as stiff and pessimistic, not least as it warned of the major economic problems that an independent Scotland would face. The debate climate quickly became very harsh.
For a long time, the no-side led by a clear margin, but the yes-side barely jumped in the lead when Election Day was approaching, much because of a large commitment among grassroots organizations, many of whom were on the left. Facing the risk of Scotland breaking free, the Conservative Party, Labor and the Liberal Democrats promised that Scotland would gain greater powers if voters voted to remain within the Union.
Once the election had taken place, it turned out that the margins were larger than expected. The no-side received 55 percent of the vote and the yes-side 45 percent. The turnout was just under 85 percent.
Forward for SNP
After the referendum, Salmond resigned as prime minister and as SNP leader. He was succeeded in both positions by Nicola Sturgeon. After the election, new members flocked to the two parties on the yes side.
The British parliamentary election the year after the referendum was a huge success for the SNP, taking 57 out of 59 Scottish seats. Labor lost all mandates except one in Scotland and a mandate went to the Conservative Party. Labor’s electoral loss was partly explained by the fact that there was a great dissatisfaction with the party’s cooperation with the unpopular Conservative Party in Scotland in the referendum.
Ahead of the election to the Scottish Parliament in May 2016, the SNP led a great deal in opinion polls. However, Nicola Sturgeon did her best to show that the party did not take the victory for granted. She promised budget increases in real numbers to care, free meals for all preschoolers and extra support for low-income families. Within parts of the SNP, which received thousands of new members after the 2014 referendum, there was some dissatisfaction that Sturgeon did not seem prepared to pursue a more radical policy.
The SNP received 63 seats in the elections, six fewer than in 2011, and the Conservative party was second largest in Holyrood, with 31 seats, Labor came in third place with 24 seats.
When a majority of the British in June 2016 voted to leave the EU, the Scots voted by a clear majority, 62 percent, to remain. Sturgeon began exploring the terrain for a new referendum on independence. When Prime Minister Theresa May received Parliament’s approval in March 2017 to begin Britain’s exit from the EU (Brexit), Sturgeon announced that she wanted a new referendum, a claim May rejected. Opinion surveys indicated that about 46–47 percent of Scots backed the demand for independence. Sturgeon also pushed for Scotland to gain greater transparency in the Brexit process.
Setback for SNP in British parliamentary elections
However, the SNP suffered a setback in the elections to the British Parliament in June 2017. The party won 35 seats, some with hardly any margin. It was 21 fewer than 2015, but the party still held the position as the UK’s third largest party. During the election campaign, Sturgeon described the party as the real opposition in Westminster, but still tried to keep a relatively low profile on the issue of independence. The Conservative Party, which has had a hard time winning Scottish votes since Margaret Thatcher’s tenure in 1979–1990, achieved great success and increased from one to 13 seats (see also Current Policy). Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party, managed to play on concerns about the consequences of a possible new referendum, and dissatisfaction with the SNP’s rule in Scotland. Labor also rose from one mandate to seven, and the Liberal Democrats increased from one mandate to four.
Sturgeon later announced that she wants to wait for a new referendum on independence until Brexit negotiations are ready in 2019. She has later criticized the British government in London, which she accuses of wanting to gain too much power at Scotland’s expense when powers are to be taken home from Brussels after the Brexit, because London wants to take over decision-making on issues that are currently being decided by the Scottish Parliament.
New election success
The British parliamentary elections in 2019 became a success for the SNP, which now won 48 seats, 13 more than in 2017. However, it was far from certain that everyone who voted for the SNP supported the idea of an independent Scotland. However, it is difficult to know what percentage of voters cast their vote on the SNP to mark their dissatisfaction with the Conservative government in London. Nicola Sturgeon, however, was aware that there was not enough support yet for the independence side to win a new referendum, and even more uncertain that Boris Johnson’s government in London would agree to hold one.
The main obstacle, however, is that the Scottish Government needs approval from the British Parliament for the result of a referendum to be legally valid, something the Conservative government in London has said no to.
In 1999, Scotland and Wales gained some autonomy. The National Assembly in Wales, Senedd Cymru, has 60 members who are elected for a term of four years. However, it has fewer powers than its Scottish counterpart.
In 2006, the House was given some right to enact laws in areas for which the self-government is responsible, such as housing, education and social issues. However, the London Parliament must give its approval. However, following a referendum in March 2011, the Welsh Assembly was allowed to enact laws in 20 areas – including social welfare, transport and roads, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and culture – without having to consult the London government. Since then, self-government has also been given the right to collect taxes, equivalent to one-fifth of the Welsh Government’s budget, from 2020. In 2016, the British Government presented another bill to give Wales new powers and states that the National Assembly and the Welsh self-government cannot be abolished unless it is first approved in a referendum.
The Welsh Government is headed by a Prime Minister, who since 2007 is named Carwyn Jones of Labor.
Labor has won all elections to the regional parliament, which has been held since 1999, but without reaching its own majority. During the years 2007–2011, Labor ruled together with the self-reliant Plaid Cymru.
In the 2011 election, Labor received 30 seats, and was therefore close to gaining its own majority, while the Conservative Party was second largest with 14 seats, followed by Plaid Cymru with 11, which was a decrease of 4 seats. The Liberal Democrats got 5 seats.
In the following election in May 2016, Labor lost a mandate, while the Conservative Party got 11 seats and Plaid Cymru received 12 seats, Ukip 7 and the Liberal Democrats 1 seat.
When the prime minister was to be appointed, there was a smooth race between Carwyn Jones and Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood, who both received 29 votes. After negotiations, Plaid Cymru decided to support Labor. Carwyn Jones then formed a new minority government.
Carwyn Jones resigned in December 2018 and was then succeeded, both as prime minister and Labor leader, by Mark Drakeford. The new government that took over then consisted of six men and eight women.
The conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland dates back to the 17th century. The latest wave of violence, usually called The Troubles, began in the late 1960s and has claimed more than 3,700 people’s lives. Since a peace agreement was signed in 1998, the situation in Northern Ireland has slowly normalized, although the violence has not completely disappeared.
The Troubles began after a peaceful civil rights movement began to protest against the discrimination of the Catholic population, which caused confrontations with militant Protestants who felt their power was threatened. The British army was deployed in 1969 to end the violence. The hard-fought methods of the army soon led the Catholic people to oppose it. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out several terrorist attacks and demanded that the British leave Northern Ireland. The unrest escalated further as both the IRA and Protestant groups committed new acts of violence. In 1972, the British dissolved Northern Ireland’s parliament and then ruled the province directly from London.
Several attempts were made to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict. The old mistrust between the London and Dublin governments was gradually replaced by the realization that the countries must work together to end the violence. Secret deliberations that had started in the 1980s paved the way for the process that led to the 1998 peace agreement and a normalization of life in the province.
The agreement largely meant that Northern Ireland was given limited autonomy with the right to make decisions on economic development, agriculture, health care, social services, education and environmental issues. A new parliament, Stormont, was set up with 108 members elected for a term of five years. Most of the parties are registered either as Unionists (in effect Protestants who wanted to keep ties to Britain) and Nationalists (mainly Catholics who wanted a united Ireland).
The provincial government is to be chaired by two prime ministers, both of whom must have the support of at least 40 percent of the members on both sides. Other ministers are appointed on the basis of how many seats their respective parties have received in parliament. A new council has been formed in which ministers from the provincial government and Ireland work together. Northern Ireland’s national affiliation should only be changed if a majority of the population so wishes.
Since 2007, Northern Ireland has had a functioning provincial government for a long period of time. For a long time, the provincial government consisted of four parties: two unionist parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Ulster’s Unionist Party (UUP), and two nationalist Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic SDLP. From 2015, Northern Ireland was governed solely by the DUP and Sinn Féin, but in early 2017 the government fell and despite long negotiations no new ministry has been formed. The problems have also been compounded by the fact that the UK is about to leave the EU, where the question of what the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland should look like is one of the more difficult problems (see Current policy). The situation was not facilitated by the British government becoming dependent on the DUP after the parliamentary elections in June 2017 (see also Towards Peace).
READING TIP: read more about Northern Ireland in UI’s publication Foreign magazine:
Brexit raises the idea of a united Ireland (2019-02-20)
Here you can read more about the conflict in Northern Ireland.