If done right, Northern Ireland could benefit from an unexpected and unwanted agreementby David Henig / January 20, 2020 / Leave a comment
Northern Ireland has in certain respects always diverged from the rest of the United Kingdom. In politics, despite varying links between parties there and in Britain. In citizenship, with the right to an Irish passport. More recently in agriculture, with the late Ian Paisley senior’s quip that the cows are Irish and the creation of a different veterinary zone. Most importantly, in terms of the fraught questions over the identity of the population.
Now, with Brexit imminent, a new split approaches, for the future relationship with the EU will differ to that of the rest of the UK. In London the main political question of the year will be the form of the future trading relationship with the EU. In Northern Ireland the EU relationship is already broadly defined for the coming years, and it is the closer nature of this, and the impact on links with Great Britain, that will be at the heart of debate. This has already caused real concerns, which cannot be simply wished away by empty promises from the prime minister. Equally there may also be opportunities, particularly now the Northern Ireland Assembly has returned to operation, building on the unique status the province will have.
A political party died in October 2019, and that was the Conservative and Unionist Party. Signing up to a Withdrawal Agreement which prioritised Brexit ahead of free trade and common regulation within the UK demonstrated where its ultimate priorities lay, and it was not with the preservation of the union. Whatever the prime minister claims, it is clear that goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland will be treated as if they were entering the EU, whether in terms of tariffs or regulatory checks, with some system of (likely retrospective) tariff waiver for goods that stay in the province. Northern Ireland businesses will be subject to EU single market rules. It is less clear what checks and paperwork may be in place for goods coming from Northern Ireland across the Irish sea, but given that goods can enter the province from the EU with no checks or tariffs, it would be surprising if these can in turn enter Britain in the same way.
To an extent these rules for trade within the UK will be dependent on the future UK-EU…