( Fifteen-minute read)
The 1998 Belfast Agreement was supposed to bring peace to the province. In reality, it institutionalized sectarianism by setting up a consociational regime, which, like Lebanon, rewards the hardest communal politicians.
UK-EU trade deal came into force on 1 January 2021.
The deal prevented any tariffs and quotas from being introduced – which would have made it more expensive to trade, but as the UK no longer has to follow EU rules on product standards, new checks were introduced.
However, this deal called the Northern Ireland protocol doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of tariffs in the future.
If either the UK or the EU shifts their rules too far, the other side could introduce tariffs.
The Northern Ireland protocol keeps Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods and means EU customs rules are enforced at its ports – but it is strongly opposed among unionists, who see it as separating Northern Ireland from the UK.
At the moment the protocol is part of the Brexit deal and so far the fundamentals of the agreement remain unquestioned.
Because Boris Johnson will not want a row over Northern Ireland with the EU to overshadow the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow.
The DUP is a strange organization for those not familiar with the intricacies of Irish politics.
It began in the outer fringes of fundamentalist evangelicalism when Ian Paisley, the party’s founder, claimed that the leaders of the main Protestant churches were failing to stand up to “Romanism” and “papism”.
This allowed the DUP to become the dominant force in unionism, replacing the Ulster Unionist Party, which had ruled over the six counties since the state’s foundation.
40 percent of the DUP’s councilors and a third of its elected representatives in the Legislative Assembly are members of the Free Presbyterian church—a denomination that makes up only 0.6 percent of the total population.
They are Christian fundamentalists who still play a big role in the party, and their religious views coincide neatly with their right-wing political positions.
At the core of its politics is a veneration of the queen as a defender of the Protestant faith and the imperial past.
This loyalty is to a “form of national-imperial Britishness whose origins remain strongly associated with a bygone age”
Fortunately, modern Britain is a multicultural society—despite efforts to promote nostalgia for empire—where most of the population has little relationship to the Protestant churches. Nonetheless, this never stops the DUP from yearning for a restoration of old imperial glory.
On this basis, it aligned itself with the hardest Brexiteers in the Tory Party during the 2016 European Union referendum campaign and propped up Theresa May’s government after the 2017 general election in Britain.
The DUP backed Brexit for two reasons.
Firstly, it thought that a clean break with the EU would put an end to any drift towards a 32 county Ireland because the two parts of the country would be governed by different economic arrangements.
Secondly, it supported the Tory fantasy that a fully sovereign Britain would be better able to restore both its “greatness” and its imperial tradition.
In the case of the DUP, this weakness lies in the very nature of its claim to British identity.
The queen is more widely seen as a soap opera matriarch than as the “defender of the faith”. The “Britishness” that plays such a central role in loyalist ideology barely exists in reality.
In the real world, Northern Ireland is one of the most contentious and defining conflicts of the twenty century and one whose impact is still felt today with its roots stretching back to the Anglo-Norman settlement of Ireland in 1167 the history of which shows no matter how dressed up shows that the island of Ireland was once a United Island before the partition of its six northern provinces.
Since then the process of ‘Ulsterization’ occurred, with decades of violence in Northern Ireland have been followed by the possibility of unity through political ends.
Irish unionism itself undergoing a profound transformation through, conflict and removal of religious domination in the South.
Brexit and the continuing difficulties in agreeing on the future EU-UK relationship has however fundamentally changed political opinion in Northern Ireland, where Irish unity is now a means by which Northern Ireland can avoid the post-Brexit chaos and re-enter the European Union.
The possibility of unity referenda in a five-to-10-year timeframe is now very real.
If this were to happen big questions would have to be answered first.
How would a united Ireland integrate public services such as health, welfare, education, policing, or infrastructural development?
So political and cultural positions are likely to be more important in the
coming months. “How can you unite this island when in Northern Ireland the
DUP ensures that the population of NI remains divided and segregated?
Comprehensive support in the Republic for a united Ireland will only be achieved if there is an emerging consensus in Northern Ireland, with almost 1 million Unionists agreeing to enter into dialogue.
Nor can that path cannot come through the politics of Sinn Fein.
A return to the Troubles in the North, rather than any UK demand for the European Court of Justice to lose oversight of the implementation of EU law in Northern Ireland is a tough ask for Brussels.
It is an unacceptable price for Irish unity.
As with most problems in the world today we can talk, write, post till the cows come home.
Brexit now tragically risks driving a horse and coach what was agreed in the Good Friday agreement
To use a cliche we have to learn from the past.
The youth of NI, the post ceasefire generation have probably little idea of where it all came from, why it came, and why in the end there has to be an agreed solution.
So in the context of a unified Ireland.
If northern Ireland’s economy improves with adjustment to the current protocol so that it simply reflects average Irish economic performance within the EU no Uk 10 bn subventions will be needed, and a united Ireland of some kind will have to agree by Unionists and nationalists.
All human comments are appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.
So far, the UK has signed trade deals and agreements in principle with 68 countries and one with the EU.
The majority are “rollover” deals – copying the terms of deals the UK already had when it was an EU member, rather than creating new benefits.