Is the UK bluffing over the Irish Border?
By Joe Harker
The Irish Border issue will be no problem for the Tories if the UK is heading towards a no deal Brexit, according to Philip Hammond. The UK, EU and Republic of Ireland are all opposed to the idea of there being a border but if Brexit results in the UK leaving with no deal then there will have to be a full one to conduct customs checks and control who is permitted to cross.
Border communities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are staunchly opposed to there being a hard border between the two countries. At the moment people and goods are able to cross the border unopposed as they are both in the EU. The current border runs through some people's houses and the only indication that you have crossed in some places is a change in the road signs and currency.
If the UK leaves with no deal then a hard border in Ireland is inevitable despite being terrible for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Is the British government really willing to do such a thing to get what it wants or are they bluffing in the hopes of scaring the EU into offering some sort of deal? It's a dangerous and irresponsible piece of brinksmanship if they are.
One suggestion proposed in negotiations is the border being in the Irish sea, meaning that goods and people can easily move around Ireland and are not subjected to more serious checks until they try to enter the rest of the UK. However, the DUP completely oppose the idea and they are propping up a minority Conservative government in the House of Commons so it is unlikely that there will be a border in the sea after all.
Irish comedian Patrick Kielty has produced one of the most comprehensive explanations of the situation and criticised the "monumental ignorance" of politicians like Boris Johnson over the matter. Kielty explained that the UK leaving the EU would jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement and make a poll on a united Ireland "inevitable".
Part of the genius of the GFA was that it created a situation that was acceptable to supporters of a united Ireland and those who wanted Northern Ireland to stay with the UK. The lack of a border, underpinned by membership of the EU, allowed the countries to feel close without the UK losing Northern Ireland. With Brexit making a border more likely that situation will be gone and people that once felt united will likely once again have a clearly defined divide between them.
UK prime minister Theresa May has said that the UK will put forward proposals "that work", in stark contrast to the multitude of occasions where they have suggested ideas that relied on cherry picking or were unworkable from the start.
The UK has a responsibility to the countries that make it up not to take actions that are significantly against their best interests. Despite rhetoric from supporters of Brexit it is certainly not in the best interests of Northern Ireland, particularly with a hard border in place. Ignoring that responsibility could lead to countries leaving the UK, essentially bringing an end to the union. There is much more at stake than Brexit and the Irish border, people's lives and futures are quite literally on the line.