The Constitution Unit


Launch: Interim Report of the Working Group on Unification Referendums

3 December 2020

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The Interim Report of the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland is published on 26 November. The report explores how any potential future referendum or referendums on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would best be designed and conducted.

This webinar is an opportunity for discussion of the report’s purposes, analysis, and conclusions. It is aimed towards interested individuals and organisations in Great Britain. Similar webinars are being held in Belfast and Dublin, designed for audiences in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The Working Group is independent of all political parties and governments and is funded by the British Academy and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. The Group takes no view on whether such referendums should take place or what the outcome should be. You can read more about the Working Group, its members, and the areas our project is examining on the project webpage.

The report concludes that referendums should not be called without a clear plan for the referendum processes that would follow, and it identifies difficult issues that need discussion and analysis. For example, what evidence would inform the decision to call a referendum on Northern Ireland’s constitutional status? Would referendums take place before or after proposals for the shape of a united Ireland had been developed? How would the referendum campaigns be regulated? These are just a few of the questions explored by the Group.

The following speakers will examine the possible answers to these questions in the UK political and legal context:

  • Dr Alan Renwick, chair of the Working Group and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit.
  • Clare Salters, former senior civil servant in the Northern Ireland Office and NI constitutional adviser.
  • Alan Whysall, Working Group member and former senior civil servant in the Northern Ireland Office.
  • Martin Kettle, associate editor and columnist at The Guardian.

The event will be chaired by Professor Meg Russell, Director of the Constitution Unit.