Forget the backstop, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: a united Ireland solves all the problems
The EU knows it, and so does everybody else. The island of Ireland makes more sense as a single administrative area, with the border disappearing completely, mentally as well as physically.
A relic of British colonialism and a botched peace treaty with Irish nationalists, the border was established on 3 May 1921. Its physical manifestation of ugly military fortifications and checkpoints was dismantled with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. That was a treaty between the British Government and the IRA (Irish Republican Army), which had carried out a terrorist campaign with the objective of a united Ireland and complete British withdrawal. The Good Friday Agreement includes a mechanism for votes on reunification of the island of Ireland.
So the border was fading away nicely, the bombings and murders had mostly stopped, and everyone on the island started to get along. We were all part of a bigger family: the European Union.
The backstop, the focus of so much hot air, is a mechanism that the EU put in place to prevent the Irish border coming back hard, by keeping the UK in the EU Customs Union after having left the EU, if no alternative solution can be found. So the backstop would only be applied if all else failed in the new relationship between the EU and the UK.
The absurdity of the Irish border and Brexit
To understand why the Irish border exists, we’d need to go back in time to the Plantations, the Flight of the Earls, William of Orange and more. Lots of things happened to result in a Unionist (pro-remaining part of the United Kingdom) and Nationalist (pro-united Ireland) split in Northern Ireland. But here’s the irony: Northern Ireland (along with Scotland and London) voted to remain in the EU in that fateful Brexit referendum back in 2016. The whole thing is crazy.
We can learn from German reunification
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the reunification of East and West Germany was a fast success. Germans from both sides were asked for their lessons learned:
- A divided country needs a joint mission. In Germany, it’s the environment.
- It only takes one generation to change attitudes and prejudices.
- Integrating immigrants is important. Be as open to differences as possible.
- Unification can lead to prosperity.
How a vote on a united Ireland can fix Brexit
Here’s how it might work:
- All parties agree that a reunification vote will be held within two years.
- Northern Ireland is to remain in the EU Single Market and Customs Union until after the vote.
- Brexit can proceed to leave the EU by 31 October 2019 with a full deal, minus backstop. The risk of widespread chaos is reduced and economic impacts on the ordinary people of the UK, Ireland and the EU are minimised.
- Separate votes on reunification are held in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, after a clear vision for a united Ireland is defined with EU support.
- If a united Ireland is approved on both sides of the border, we work together to build a better future within the EU.
- If a united Ireland is rejected by either side, then a hard border may be necessary, to keep American genetically-modified foods, chlorinated chicken, etc., out of the EU. The risk of a Republican terrorist campaign would be greatly reduced by a democratic rejection of a united Ireland.
A joint mission for a united Ireland
We can take a leaf out of Germany’s book and make the environment our joint mission. Ireland has the most beautiful landscapes in the world, lush grass and superb food and drink. Add our Atlantic location for fishing grounds, wave and wind power, and we have a truly compelling story. A united Ireland would thrive in the European Union, especially when seen as a hub for sustainable tech and food production. Belfast’s Harland and Wolff would continue to make wind turbines and Dublin’s reliance on tax-avoiding US tech companies could be replaced by indigenous, green industry and value-added food exports.
A roadmap towards a united Ireland could be a win for everybody.
Fascinating Wikipedia article on the border between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland (phew!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Ireland%E2%80%93United_Kingdom_border
Read our full post on Brexit here.
Elephant: By Mister-E – Angry elephant ears, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22613018
Removal of the Berlin Wall: By SSGT F. LEE CORKRAN – http://www.dodmedia.osd.mil/DVIC_View/Still_Details.cfm?SDAN=DFST9103520&JPGPath=/Assets/Still/1991/Air_Force/DF-ST-91-03520.JPG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3658268
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