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Research Theme: Cities, Communities and Contested Urbanism
Supervisors: Dr. Ruth McAreavey (

The decision by the UK last June to leave the EU came as a shock to many  in this country and beyond. At the very least the vote was unexpected. There are many and varied implications arising from the Brexit outcome including the potential negative impact to the economy of the U.K and the whole world. In Northern Ireland, where EU funding has played major role in urban and regional development including agriculture, the repercussions are likely to be widely felt. Farmers and those engaged with the agri-food sector, the largest employer in Northern Ireland, will face significant changes as economic borders are hardened. Just a few months after the vote, the complexity of process and the enormity of the task of untangling the UK from the rest of the EU is only becoming evident. Both the UK and the EU have established embryonic systems for managing the removal of the UK from Europe. The challenges are heightened in Northern Ireland due to its land border with the Republic of Ireland, and thus with the rest of the EU. This PhD will investigate the possibility of situating a new trade zone in the border area between NI and the Republic as a way of overcoming the anticipated fallout from EU exit. It will consider whether the particular geographical location of NI, having a land border with Ireland, can be exploited by implementing an innovative economic model (e.g. free trade zone) to compensate for the expected negative impact on the economy. This study is predominantly qualitative research involving document analysis; interviews; focus groups and observation. Secondary data will therefore support empirical primary data. The study will target policy makers within Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It will conduct focus groups with those engaged with SME’s. Analysis will be via coding and thematic analysis. Options for electronic analysis will be explored within the PhD.  Brexit is evidently a topical issue. This will add to an emerging area of study and will provide useful policy insights that will be of interest to policymakers in Northern Ireland and beyond.

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