Published 22 July, 2016.
Scotland, Ireland, and Brexit: what history tells us
Iain McLean is Professor of Politics and a fellow of Nuffield College.
Most of Wales is like most of England, with the metropolitan city (Cardiff) voting Remain and the rest of the country mostly for Leave. Note, however, that there is a little dark (pro-Remain) strip in the north and west. The patterns of settlement laid down centuries ago by the English conquest of Wales still leave their mark as that strip is both Welsh-speaking and Remain-leaning. Welsh speakers take their political cues from Plaid Cymru, which strongly backed Remain.
Now look at Northern Ireland where the votes of 2016 reflect the politics of the 17th century. The palest (most pro-Leave) area is Antrim. That is where James VI and I sent Presbyterian settlers in the 1600s, after the defeat of a Catholic rebellion. The darkest most pro-Remain areas are the most heavily Catholic: West Belfast and Derry City, with the Catholic west of Ulster being uniformly darker than the Protestant east. In June, Catholics voted overwhelmingly Remain; Protestants leant towards Leave. Also, notice the very odd shape of Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic. That results from the Boundary Commission created by Lloyd George during the peace treaty negotiations of 1921. The Welsh Wizard managed to persuade the leaders of Catholic Ireland that the boundary would squeeze the Protestant North out of viability, and the leaders of Protestant Ulster that it would preserve their territory. When it did neither, in 1925, its report was such dynamite that it was suppressed until 1969 and the provisional border remained. Hence the crazily arbitrary boundary of present-day Northern Ireland — 370 miles long although Ireland is only about 100 miles across. Since the peace process began under John Major, that line has ceased to matter. Now it matters a great deal: Post-Brexit, the UK cannot have both restricted immigration from the EU and an open border snaking across Ireland. Ryanair flies from Warsaw to Dublin every day.