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Specification:

  • Edexcel: Component 4.3: The aims, role and impact of the European Union (EU) on UK government

  • AQA: Component 3.1.2.5: The European Union: the impact of the EU on UK politics and policymaking.

Background: what you need to know 

Although the UK has left the EU, its continuing impact on the country’s political system and policymaking remains an important examination topic. This article, by Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell, offers a critical view of the Johnson government’s handling of negotiations with the EU.

In order to understand the background to the article you need to know about several interrelated issues. Boris Johnson signed up to the Northern Ireland Protocol two years ago as part of his EU withdrawal agreement, but is now seeking to evade its implications. This is because, in order to avoid a ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland — which might place the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy — it introduces checks on goods passing between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Treating the latter differently from the rest of the UK has antagonised the Democratic Unionist Party, which by a slim margin is the largest party in Northern Ireland. This raises the possibility of the DUP withdrawing from the devolved administration in Belfast, creating a political crisis. Another issue is the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing the UK/EU relationship, which is a sticking point for a British government committed to Brexit.

Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:

The UK approach to Northern Ireland is one of casual political vandalism

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

  • Explain and analyse three ways in which withdrawal from the EU has affected UK government and politics. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 2

  • Evaluate the view that withdrawal from the EU has caused more problems than opportunities for UK governments

    In your answer you should draw on relevant knowledge and understanding of the study of Component 1: UK politics and core political ideas

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks] 

    TIP: For the Edexcel question, a relevant Component 1 topic could be Component 2: Political parties. The hostility of the Conservative party to EU membership was one of the factors that brought about Brexit. The specification also requires you to know about two minor UK parties; you could choose the DUP as one of these, given its central role in the relationship with the EU

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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