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(Two-minute read)


Britain’s oldest problem and Brexit’s biggest obstacle.The information leaflets say that avoiding a hard border remains a priority for the Government “in all circumstances”. Photographer: Bryn Colton/Bloomberg


Without a deal, the inner-Irish Border would become an outer EU barrier.


The Irish Government faces the ultimate political Catch-22 dilemma:

How to simultaneously meet its EU treaty obligations to police an outer border of the bloc with its Belfast Agreement promise to respect the open Border.

Ireland becomes a victim of the law of unintended consequences.

A no-deal Brexit – vaporised the backstop and forces a hard border.

In the immediate wake of a no-deal, the UK has said that it will allow goods to enter the North from the Republic tariff-free and avoid the need for any Border checks.

However, this does not look like a sustainable long-term position. It now seems that the outstanding backstop questions will be pushed into talks on the future EU-UK relationship.

This will put huge pressure on businesses in the North and would also appear to be in contravention of World Trade Organisation rules.

The bottom line is that, barring an arrangement similar to the backstop coming into place, some controls at or near the Irish Border look inevitable after a no-deal Brexit.

Many argue that technological solutions – drones and suchlike – will do the trick.

This is farcical:

You only eliminate physical checks between two territories separated by a border when they share a customs union and have broad regulatory alignment.

Everything else is infrastructure.

Otherwise, the EU might insist on checking goods entering from Ireland through continental ports, making Ireland second-class members of the EU single market, with a potentially huge economic cost.

The reality is that no amount of economic modelling can capture the unquantifiable human and psychological costs of the return of a hard border.

Brexiteers tell us that the customs union and the single market have nothing to do with the Good Friday agreement.

The nearly 21-year-old, consent-based international peace deal that placed the constitutional destiny of the divided communities of Northern Ireland – 56% of whom voted to remain in 2016 – in our own hands.

They are wrong.

Of course, lurking in the long tall grass of the Good Friday Agreement an international treaty is a United Ireland.

Those who signed up called it the Good Friday Agreement, those forced reluctantly to accept its terms still call it the Belfast Agreement. However, the key elements were a mutual renunciation of violation with the assurance that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK as long as the majority of its citizens wanted it to – but could in principle become part of a United Ireland if a majority desired it in the future.

This is the apocalyptical nightmare of the DUP.

On Brexit day whenever it arrives Britain will immediately be excluded from hundreds of treaties and agreements signed by the EU.

Leave the European Union without a deal would mean denouncing an International Treaty marking another step in Englands long and troubled history with its European neighbours.

Divorce or not, Europe will continue to have a huge influence over British politics and society – history has a few lessons for us here.

If Europe made Britain, then Britain also made Europe.

The solution is a long extension – resulting in a new Commission and an English Government that represent all of its people.

All human comments appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.