An Irish passport please. (A) Better make that two. Here you are lads. (A) Woah, let it settle. Fair enough. What should we do in the meantime? Well we could explain the myriad options for the Irish border post Brexit. Do you think a YouTube audience would be interested in that? I don’t know. What happens on the Irish border after Brexit has become the biggest sticking point between Britain and the EU, because there’s so many different people who want so many different things. But who are these different people, you ask? Well, there’s the British government, the Irish government and the EU, people who bring goods across the Irish border, people who ship goods across the Irish Sea, Northern Ireland’s unionist population Northern Ireland’s nationalist population and, of course, those feisty smugglers. That’s a lot of different stakeholders, not all of which get on at the best of times. Can they all be satisfied? We’ll see. First, let’s see how it works at the moment before Brexit’s ruined everything. As it stands both Britain and the UK are common members of the EU, meaning they share common regulations and tariff policy. This means goods like livestock can pass freely across the border, just as easily as products can be shipped across the Irish Sea. Under this arrangement the nationalist community is happy because they can pretend the border doesn’t exist, and the unionist community is happy because they can pretend it does. The Irish government and the EU are happy, because Northern Ireland is peaceful and levels of ever closerness are increasing. And smugglers don’t really exist. But the British government is very unhappy, as the wishes of 52% of British voters have not been implemented. So this tidy little arrangement for Northern Ireland has to end. However, Parliament has passed a law intended to block the UK leaving the EU without a deal by requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension if a deal isn’t agreed before October 31st. That said, the Prime Minister might find a way around this law, or the EU might not grant an extension, or maybe an extension will be granted but we’ll still leave with no deal at some later date. If any of these should happen, what does leaving without a deal look like on the Irish border? Brexit supporters in Britain have said that as neither the UK or Ireland want to border there’s no reason why there needs to be one in the event of no deal. But realistically an open border between two different regulatory and custom zones would be a smuggler’s paradise. So eventually there would have to be checks on the border, causing disruption, dither and delay and hurting Ireland’s economy. However there are no checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, though not all industries will benefit from this. In a No Deal scenario with a hard border the unionist community is poorer, but politically satisfied, because Northern Ireland is blocked off from the Republic and remains an intrinsic part of the UK. The Irish government and the EU are unhappy, because Ireland is suffering economically and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement isn’t being fulfilled, as parity of esteem hasn’t been shown to the Irish nationalist tradition in the North. Irish nationalists are furious, because the British government has repartitioned people’s lives. And while the British Prime Minister may be happy in the short term because he’s finally left the EU, his smiling days are numbered because he still has to come up with another solution for the Irish border before securing a trade deal with the EU or the USA, where Irish American influence in Congress is being used to stop any US trade deal being passed while the hard border is in place. (JFK) We oppose this border not because it is easy, but because it is hard. And even the unionist community isn’t happy for very long, as nationalist unhappiness over the border revives pressure for a referendum on a united Ireland. As unionists no longer make up a simple majority in the north, some may turn to less democratic means to prevent nationalists winning. Which leads us nicely to scenario number four: Northern Ireland joins the Republic. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, a border poll can only be called by the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when they view it likely to pass. If they do then two votes are held, one in the North and one the South. If both referendums pass, then a nation once again. If either fail then another vote can’t be held for at least 7 years. This is the only way Ireland can unify! Ireland can’t buy the north, it can’t win in a raffle and it can’t discover it in a wicker basket on its doorstep. And while we’re on this, you’re as likely to see Ian Paisley in the Kremlin as you are to see Ireland leave the EU to rejoin the UK, so just stop making that suggestion ok!? It’s not a thing that can happen. Quite right. For our part at least, we view the chances of North and South voting for unification as relatively slim even with Brexit, but let’s workshop it anyway. In this scenario Ireland is united and the UK has left the EU. So our farmer isn’t even crossing a border at all. It’s a different story on the water’s edge, where there are checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Britain, as well as customs – at least until a free trade deal is agreed, which could take years. Of course the nationalist community is very happy, because it’s got what it’s always wanted. And the British government is happy, because it’s got what it’s always wanted. The Irish government isn’t happy, as it’s gotten what it’s always claimed to want but never really has. Dublin and the EU now have to deal with the massive financial black hole that is Northern Ireland, not to mention half a million unionists many of whom are furious. It might have been nice to have a few boring decades of constitutional normality to let things cool off a little. Oh well. If Northern Ireland is to remain as British as Finchely, and Finchely is to leave the European Union, then there are two remaining options to consider. The first is the NI only backstop currently favored by the EU. Northern Ireland would stay in the single market and the customs union, potentially forever, meaning our farmer can cross without any checks at all. However, there would be checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. Theresa May’s deal would have avoided this by making the backstop UK wide, but that option seems so dead politically as to not even be worth considering. The Irish government and the EU are happy, because the integrity of the single market has been protected and because Varadkar has inched Ireland towards unification, but very slowly and without having to deal with the actual unification yet. And the Nationalist community may be poorer because of reduced trade to Britain, but they are politically satisfied, as there is little evidence of the border in people’s everyday lives. The British government is unhappy though, because the territorial integrity of the UK has been compromised. Even if they don’t really want Northern Ireland, whilst it’s in the UK they still need to be in full control so as not to set any precedents for Scotland, who’ve been eyeing up that sweet sweet single market themselves. What’s more, the Conservatives are currently relying on Unionist votes in Parliament to prop up their minority, and the Unionists are not satisfied because they have been separated from Britain. The impact on this on day-to-day life is much less than a hard land border would be, but nevertheless it’s a headache for the Unionist community’s political leaders, who themselves became the leaders of Unionism by supplanting a party that as seen to be too compromising with Nationalism. Having rejected an NI only or UK wide backstop, Boris Johnson has this week submitted his own proposals for the Irish border. Northern Ireland would stay in the single market but not the customs union. This means our farmer could take Goods freely between the North and the South, because the rules would be the same, but he might have to pay tariffs. However, rather than a customs post Johnson proposes *TECHNOLOGY* be used to check these tariffs. This technology would supposedly allow customs to be administered away from the border with minimal disruption. Unfortunately, this technology hasn’t been invented yet. And there would be checks on goods going between Northern Ireland and Britain, though no customs to pay. The British government is happy because the issue has been resolved and British territorial integrity only breached on their own terms. The Unionist community is suspiciously satisfied, but only because Johnson’s proposal says that the NI Assembly must vote to accept these arrangements before they’re implemented which, because of the way Stormont works, means the DUP has effectively got a veto on whether any of this can actually happen. The Nationalists aren’t happy because Johnson’s proposals massively favours Unionists politicians, and Ireland and the EU aren’t happy because these arrangements break up the integrity of the single market and customs union, and also because the Stormont veto makes the promises very insecure. But the smuggler is ecstatic, because all he needs to do to benefit from the different custom zones is sneak past the technology that hasn’t been invented yet. Given that the European Union is first and foremost a peace project it is perhaps no surprise that it’s Northern Ireland that’s finding it hardest to leave. And the group of people that we haven’t featured in our little tableaus is the majority of people in Northern Ireland who may be Nationalist or Unionist or Neither, but most of all just want peace. One might have hoped that if there is still some living connection between Northern Ireland and Britain that the welfare and security of these people would have been enough to stop the country voting for Brexit in the first place Alas, in the words of the irate man telling me off for wearing a Remain badge on the 453 bus to Deptford, ‘Northern Ireland can’t hold back the destiny of a Great Nation’ (A) Or presumably the UK. (M) Zing!! (MABEL THE FRIENDLY COW) Hellooo YooouuuTuubbbe!! Please remember to Like, share and subscribe! Thanks sooo much to the one hundred and fifty subscribers. Please share soooo that we can find even mooore friends!!! (A) Michael, what are you doing? (M) Nothing!