THE vote in Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in the European Union has been treated as more of “an irritation” than a central concern in the UK Government’s Brexit planning, according to a paper by two leading European experts.

In their analysis, published today, Dr Kirsty Hughes and Dr Katy Hayward, state the EU context has underpinned existing constitutional settlements in the two countries and that both “look set to be badly hit by a ‘hard’ Brexit, if that is what transpires”.

They say: “Partly intentionally and partly unintentionally, the UK government’s handling of the Brexit process has reinforced and underlined the centralised nature of the UK political system and the dominant power of Westminster even after 20 years of devolution.”

READ MORE: Kirsty Hughes on how the UK has chosen to ignore the Remain voters of Scotland and Northern Ireland

The two experts Hughes, the director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, and Hayward, of Queen’s University, Belfast, have also written a blog based on the paper, which is published in The National today.

They conclude: “There has been a remarkable lack of concern at UK level over the fact that two of the four constituent parts of the UK voted ‘remain’. In both Northern Ireland and Scotland, the ‘remain’ voice has not been adequately represented since the vote.

“This is particularly the case in NI – where the absence of an executive and assembly has meant there is no proper representation for the range of views that exist there. This has been exacerbated by the unanticipated and disproportionate influence of the ‘leave’-supporting DUP.”

A press statement setting out the research said: “Devolution – and the implications of two devolved areas voting remain – appears to have been viewed more as an irritation than a central concern in the UK’s Brexit planning to date.”

The paper concludes unless the UK changes tack to back a ‘soft’ Brexit, a differentiated solution for Northern Ireland is likely, meaning a border in the Irish Sea. However, it argues that for Scotland, any differentiated outcome is highly unlikely as it is lacking political support by the UK Government and in Brussels.