Riots in Northern Ireland Spurred by Brexit, Crime and Covid-19 Restrictions

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Riots in Northern Ireland Spurred by Brexit, Crime and Covid-19 Restrictions

LONDON—Dozens of police officers have been injured in more than a week of unrest in Northern Ireland, where anger over the effects of Brexit on the U.K. region is intersecting with crime and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The disorder highlights the persistent challenges around the U.K.’s split with the European Union for British and EU leaders, who are anxious to prevent the delicate arrangements for managing trade between the bloc and its former member state from upsetting a hard-won peace in Northern Ireland that ended decades of violence.

Northern Irish politicians and analysts say the nightly rioting in mostly-Protestant areas reflects resentment among pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland over what they perceive as a series of concessions to Irish nationalists, who want the region to break away from the U.K. and unite with the Republic of Ireland.

Uppermost among these are trading arrangements related to Brexit, which unionists fret risk weakening the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. while reinforcing the region’s ties to Ireland and the EU.

Also at play are grievances around the policing of Covid-19 restrictions as well as the murkier world of Northern Irish crime, which British security services say is dominated by gangs linked to former paramilitary groups.

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