Don’t (back)stop me now

backstop_1

How will we resolve the little matter of the Irish Backstop..?

Before anyone can really answer this -let alone Teresa May -its important to understand what this is all about…

Brexit in Ireland – what could happen.

To create two separate economic areas in Ireland, one inside the EU’s single market (the Republic of Ireland) and one outside (Northern Ireland, member of the UK) the EU and UK need to come to an arrangement on how they will deal with the Irish border between the two countries in the future. In the event that the UK and EU do not strike amicable trading arrangements that prevent checks being made on good passing across the border Irish.. the backstop would kick in.  This would mean roughly..  (and hey your beloved Brexile is no expert), that the UK would have to align itself with some of the EU’s customs arrangements, that would allow a friction-less border for goods passing between the UK and EU’s only land border.

But as we know now this was not favoured at all by British MPs, who wouldn’t sign off on the deal.

The current deal but would bind the UK to a number of regulations that could be problematic to the UK’s future trading partnerships outside the EU… but again this article only scratches the surface of a very complex trade situation, on which I would refer you to others on the specifics..  The backstop as it has been agreed by the British government and the the EU, means that Northern Ireland would ultimately stay in EU’s single market to allow the free movement of people, goods, services and the forth one… mmm..  that I keep forgetting..?  Anyway, this would essentially create a dilemma whereby Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be separated economically speaking.. this scares the ‘shite’ out of Northern Irish unionists who believe it will create a border down the Irish Sea (separating NI and UK) and that its the first step to the break up of their union, a slippery slope towards a united Ireland..  there’s a lot at stake..

It’d put the fear of God in ye…  

This goes back years..  from 1969- 1998 -when the Good Friday peace agreement was signed in Northern Ireland- a bloody conflict ranged between nationalist (wishing to be joined with the rest of Ireland) and unionists or loyalist (wishing to stay part of the United Kingdom).  This conflict was a continuation of a much longer struggle for Irish independence from British colonialism (in fact Ireland was England’s first overseas colony -see, I do know a wee bit). This battle for freedom had been going on for many years before the south of Ireland eventual broke away from British rule in 1922.  At this point the Republic of Ireland was established, with the northern part (consisting of 6 counties) remaining under British control – Northern Ireland.

The struggle for independence in the north was not really pursued in earnest until 1969 when under the backdrop of a civil rights movement by the nationalist communities demanding equal status with their unionist countrymen and women a conflict spiraled as a result of clashes between security forces (representing the British state) determined to stamp-out further rebellion and members of the resistance movement against occupation.

At the time this part of the world was regarded as one of the most active conflict zones and witnessed a full scale deployment of the British military installations to ‘defend’ Northern Ireland’s sovereignty as a member of the United Kingdom..  The fortifications in Belfast and other towns and cities throughout the North were heavy, and it took its toll on people that lived there during this time.  The conflict was waged everywhere in  towns and cities, countryside and even spilling onto mainland Britain in the later stages..  As military intervention grew over the 30 year period, one of the places most dangerous during this time was the Irish/Northern Irish border -bandit country as it was known as.

There were road checks, stop and search, bombing, IEDs, open fire fights, and an overwhelming sense of fear and distrust in the region.   But over the last 20 years this conflict and the extreme violence on both sides dissolved following the peace deal. Eventually this brought peace to the border, and the removal of the watchtowers, checks and security measures that had antagonized the local populations for years.

Repeating mistakes of the past

Brexit has reopened old wounds due to the uncertainty on how things will go in the future, but all parties involved in the divorce between the UK and EU are committed to keeping a peaceful open border that was the result of the Good Friday Peace Agreement. The opening up of the border was made that bit easier as both the UK (Northern Ireland) and the Republic of Ireland were both EU member states.

Deep down, the fear is that in the event that UK and EU cannot make arrangements that prevent checks on this volatile border that this could re-create the ‘hard border’ of the past -the battle ground where the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the British security forces fought it out.

This is why such resentment exists towards Brexit by the nationalist communities, that traditionally live in the counties next to the border with the Rep of Ireland. And a build up of any kind of physical border is something they did not wish to see return.  In many ways the vote on Brexit in Northern Ireland reflects this division, with nationalist communities voting to remain part of the EU, with the unionist -many of which living in the north and north east of the country opting (not all) to leave.

Needless to say this is a tricky situation, one that will require clever negotiation if the UK is to secure a deal with EU on leaving, and time is running out. The British Prime Minister is caught between a rock and hard place..  but many including The Brexile saw this coming.. as if it wasn’t hard enough to deal with border relations between Ireland and the UK, now it involves the rest of Europe and British trade policy (which is actually one of the significant reasons the British government needs to find a solution)

We will see where this  goes,  problem is, no one really knows whats the right direction..

The Brexile

PS. Technological solutions for frictionless borders don’t exits, nor will they before the time that UK wants to conclude its trade arrangements with the EU..

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