The paper, and Theresa May's article on it, were well-intentioned. But crucial details about what will happen post-Brexit are still missingby Siobhan Fenton / August 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Throughout the Brexit referendum campaign, the rallying cry of the Leave lobby was the demand that the UK “take back control of our borders.” You’d be forgiven for wondering if those who uttered the phrase ever realized—let alone admitted—that the UK does have a literal land border with the EU. But there is a physical border that the UK shares with another EU country, and it lies between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. More than a year since the referendum result, that border’s future lies uncertain and unstable, as do the lives and livelihoods that live alongside it.
Today, the UK has published a long-awaited, much-anticipated position paper on Northern Ireland and its future after Brexit. Theresa May outlined her vision for it in an op ed for the Northern Irish newspaper, The Irish News. The newspaper is primarily read by Northern Ireland’s nationalist/Catholic community, many of whom identify as Irish and are therefore particularly anxious about the future of the border after Brexit.
Most people in Northern Ireland oppose any physical border changes, due to fears it could destablise the peace process. The Republic of Ireland has reportedly proposed that this could be avoided by having a ‘sea border’ around the whole island—however, this has been disparaged by the Democratic Unionists as they fear this would cut them off from Great Britain and thereby undermine their British identity, just as nationalists fear a land border would undermine their Irish one.
Sadly, May’s op ed and the subsequent position paper show that the UK still has a long way to go before it has anything close to a proper proposal for the border. The government has stated that there would be no land border at all on the island (such as passport checks, or control check points), without giving a credible explanation as to how this would work.
The document states that it wants to retain current agreements which allow people to move between Northern Ireland and the Republic with “goods for personal use” without declaring them or paying any duties on them. It also states a preference for businesses in Northern Ireland to retain access to Ireland’s markets.
Both are sensible stances, but it is difficult to see how they could work in practice—especially if a hard Brexit…