There is now a possibility that Northern Ireland will decide to separate from Great Britain and join the Irish Republic. If this happens, what will happen to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Will the UK continue to function, just without Northern Ireland? Will it revert to Great Britain (England and Wales and Scotland) alone? Will something else happen?

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    I’m voting to close this question because that is ultimately a question of Politics and would belong there.
    – Trish
    Feb 3 at 1:55
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    Is the question simply about what the name of the kingdom would become? Or do you have something else in mind when you say "what would happen to it"? Feb 3 at 5:06
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    AFAICT under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 which implements the Good Friday Agreement, a vote for a united Ireland would not automatically remove Northern Ireland from the UK. It would only oblige the Secretary of State to "lay before Parliament such proposals to give effect to that wish...". Feb 3 at 5:09
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    The UK Parliament would still have to actually pass legislation, and part of that legislation could be to rename the Kingdom if they saw fit to do so. So I guess the answer is "to be determined if and when it becomes necessary". Feb 3 at 5:10
  • @Nate Eldredge I was initially interested in the name, that is, whether the name UK would disappear. Feb 3 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


It would probably become the United Kingdom of Great Britain composing of the former Kingdoms of England and Scotland (known since 1707 as the Kingdom of Great Britian).

The Principality of Wales was incorperated into the Kingdom of England with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542.

See how it was done in 1927 when the name changed from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 ... was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that authorised the alteration of the British monarch's royal style and titles, and altered the formal name of the British Parliament and hence of the state, in recognition of most of Ireland separating from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State.

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    Why wouldn't it become just the Kingdom of Great Britain as it was before 1801?
    – phoog
    Feb 4 at 17:45
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    @phoog Parliament can decide this in any form it desires. No reason must be given. They can choose either a simple solution (simple removal of NI from the name) or a more complicated one (extensive name change everywhere) as it pleases them. Feb 4 at 19:09
  • "Parliament can decide this in any form it desires": agreed. I was just curious about the reasoning behind the prediction given in this answer. Thanks for clarifying.
    – phoog
    Feb 5 at 8:04

Northern Ireland is not recognized as a sovereign nation. So there are two options, one marginally credible and one not credible:

  • The UK could agree to the secession of NI from the UK and transfer to the ROI, after negotiations and presumably after the referendum which was envisioned as an option by the Belfast Agreement. The agreement between the UK and ROI would spell out what happens, legally.
  • NI rebels against the UK and wins. It asks other countries to recognize the facts on the ground, while the UK presumably asks others to refrain. Compare the Macedonia naming dispute, or the One China issue.
  • The question asks what would happen to the UK if Northern Ireland decided to join Ireland [as provided in the Good Friday Agreement], not what would happen to Northern Ireland if it sought to become an independent country.
    – phoog
    Feb 4 at 8:12
  • @phoog, sovereign countries can join other countries. Provinces cannot.
    – o.m.
    Feb 4 at 8:13
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    Why would you think such a thing? What instrument or custom of international law establishes that? Is the Good Friday Agreement invalid because it purports to allow a province to do what you claim is not allowed? When was this principle established? How did the transfer of Alaska or Louisiana to the United States happen?
    – phoog
    Feb 4 at 17:40
  • @phoog, in the GFA both parties agree to respect and implement the wishes of the people of NI and the ROI. It is a "binding obligation" to introduce legislation, yet what this legislation would be could not be predicted in advance. Hence my first bullet point, a referendum (presumably, but how else do you get a free choice by the people?), followed by negotiations about the terms. I can add as they have promised in the GFA to my answer.
    – o.m.
    Feb 4 at 18:47

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