Yesterday’s publication of an updated report by a parliamentary committee in the United Kingdom on the possible future shape of the non-border between the UK-administered Six Counties and the rest of Ireland is a glorious example of Brexit vacuity at its best. Despite sixty-nine pages of comparative analysis, witness statements and innumerable footnotes, the document amounts to little more than a list of increasingly challenging questions to which the British MPs could offer no answers.
How is Britain going to maintain an invisible or open frontier around its legacy colony in the north-east of Ireland when the country withdraws from the European Union, including the EU’s single market and customs union? Simply put, no one knows. Or as the Westminster website headlines the report, “No progress in finding solution to Brexit border problem“.
From the publication itself, “The land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland“, the impossibility of unobtrusive customs checks and border posts gives rise to these confused thoughts:
The Committee has heard numerous proposals for how the UK and the EU could ensure customs compliance without physical infrastructure at the border. This is currently the case for enforcement in relation to fuel, alcohol and tobacco. These proposals address the question of compliance through mobile patrols, risk analysis, data-sharing and enforcement measures away from the border. However, we have had no visibility of any technical solutions, anywhere in the world, beyond the aspirational, that would remove the need for physical infrastructure at the border.
The Committee supports the Prime Minister’s clear rejection of the current proposals in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement which would result in a customs border in the Irish Sea. The issues of the land border cannot be resolved by creating a costly barrier to trade with Northern Ireland’s largest market
The Government’s stated intention, that Northern Ireland will be outside of the EU Customs Union and Single Market but require no border infrastructure, is unprecedented.
On the question of London reimposing a militarised frontier to demarcate its recently quiescent colonial territory in the northern corner of the island of Ireland, the scene of violent conflict until the Irish-British peace process of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the MPs note that:
During the Troubles, security installations were erected along the border and a system of approved roads was put in place for travel between jurisdictions. Dr Patterson told us it would now be accepted that all the infrastructure used to create the “hardest of hard borders” was ineffective. Professor John Doyle, Director of the Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction at Dublin City University, said:
33,000 members of the Armed Forces were deployed in Northern Ireland. If you talk to veterans, I do not think you will find a single officer who thought the border was sealed for one hour during that period. All the evidence is that it was not.
Today, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has around 7,000 officers for 310 miles of border. George Hamilton agreed that hard physical infrastructure had not been successful for policing the border. In his assessment, physical infrastructure at the border would also become the subject of “unhelpful attention” from dissident republicans who view the police or representatives of the state as legitimate targets. He emphasised that officers should not be made into “sitting ducks”…
The border in Northern Ireland has always been porous. Additional infrastructure is not only politically objectionable but, on its own, would be a highly ineffective means of preventing the movement of illicit goods.
Particular attention should be paid to this claim by the members of the Conservative, Labour and Democratic Unionist parties on the committee regarding the removal of European Union rights and protections from Irish citizens in the Six Counties:
The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement recognises the birth right of the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves as Irish, British, or both, irrespective of any future change in the status of Northern Ireland, and to equal treatment irrespective of their choice.
On leaving the EU, British citizens will no longer be EU citizens. The Joint Report states, however, that people in Northern Ireland who can also choose Irish citizenship will “continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland”. However, we heard that nearly all rights stemming from the EU’s four freedoms are conditional upon an individual living within an EU member state. Sylvia de Mars told us that once the UK leaves, the rights of EU citizens in Northern Ireland will become dormant in the same way that an EU citizen living in the United States today has dormant EU rights.
Good luck with that!
Possibly a silly question, but why is anyone who considers themselves Irish still living in the ‘North’? The GFA has been in place for what, 20 years or so? Most people will have moved their home at least once in that time, and afaik, the ‘South’ is rather prosperous these days and actively seeks to increase its population. I’m not suggesting a mass exodus, but wouldn’t you think that over the years there’d have been a steady trickle south? If anyone resident in NI can become an Irish citizen simply by registering and then have full citizens’ rights, why remain in the North and face an uncertain future. While reunification has to happen sometime, that sometime could easily be 50 or 100 years away, so little practical reason to hang around in ‘occupied territory’ while the road south is still open and unimpeded?
That’s one of the many differences between you britz and us Irish, we will be damned if we give up on our homeland. We all could have gone to Meirica and given up all together, but we hung on for over eight hundred years, and we will for eight hundred more if we have to to wrest back the fourth green field. We do not think for one year or five, but for millennia, and we will never forget or give up (the concept of giving up does not exist for us). Croí Cróga!
So you think the Orangemen will like the Anglo-Normans before them become “more Irish than the Irish”? No doubt in the long run. But as someone once said, “in the long run we’re all dead”!
Sorry, but I do not quite understand. Eventually, all the orangemen will have returned to “their” island (where they really belong and originated from), which is not our island. There is simply no room here for their hate and bigotry.
No room for them (hopefully!) in Britain either. But now you’re starting to sound like those over here in the UK who would repatriate all Muslims etc.
Women’s rights, LGBT rights, basic human rights, racial and religious equality, freedom of speech and expression, income equality, respect-based social interaction regardless of sex, race, creed, religion, and ethnicity are all part of a progressive society. Folks who cannot deal with that for whatever reason should, for the sake of their own sanity, seek a different environment. There is nothing wrong to forcibly eject from a free society any non-citizens who, based on their perception on what is moral, chaste, or prudent, desire to violate the rights of others, who without affecting others’ rights simply live their lives. As for Ireland, once a reunification is achieved, it would be natural for those descendants of the invaders who cannot deal with being placed on an equal playing field to seek the homeland of their ancestors. I was not referring to expulsions, but simply a normal voluntary migration.
Incredibly näive question posed by “Maconatrix” – and this is a British poster who posts on here regularly and claims to know something of Ireland – but clearly does not have a clue if he can pose a question like that.
What is also interesting is that many British people slag off the Americans claiming the Americans have no clue about Ireland or the failed British colonization efforts as to the background to the conflict in Ireland – and then you read a post like this from “Maconatrix”.
Truly staggering ignorance of Ireland.
As a native Briton from the far SW (Cornwall), my apologies for any offence caused by others Britons posting here, not that I can apologise for anyone else really. I lived and worked in the border counties in Fermanagh and Tyrone for 10 years, wished I hadn’t left, though I wanted to eventually return to my spiritual home. I lived in two opposites of the community divide, a republican village near Omagh, and a unionist village near Enniskillen, and to be honest, as a ‘Cornish nationalist’, my empathy was always leaning towards a unified Ireland and self determination. In the 1990s, I used to get stopped often, crossing, or near the border by security services, so I would say the Good Friday Agreement and the EU was a positive thing for the whole island of Ireland. Meanwhile, from the British perspective, I am appalled at the British Tory party’s ignorance of the potential impact of BREXIT on Ireland, north and south. Politicians like the Tory MP, Jacob Rees Mogg, I find truly ignorant, and arrogant on the issue. Home is where the heart is, so no one should have to move to suit political borders. Will Ireland ever become one nation state? I suspect BREXIT could precipitate that? I would support unification, I see no reason in the 21st Century why not, but with two opposed forces in NI/the north, whatever happens, around 50% of the population will not be content. From Bodmin, (the dwelling of the monks, in Cornish).
Why is anyone who voted for an independent Scotland in the last referendum still living in the UK? If those voters genuinely believe themselves not to be UK subjects or British nationals, object to the very existence of the UK as currently constituted, why not leave the island if the situation is so intolerable? There the rest of the EU, the US, Australia, New Zealand and other places they could go to? Some with existing Scottish communities?
An interesting approach, but honestly the analogy just doesn’t work.
In the first place the union of Scotland with England (and a few other bits!) wasn’t by conquest, but technically at least, by agreement. Scotland is therefore constitutionally one half of the partnership which is Great Britain. Although slightly more or less than half of Scots would prefer a legal separation, until that happy day arrives they remain UK citizens, and in the vast majority of cases are citizens of no other land. There is no Alba Saor somewhere over the horizon 😉
In contrast, NI is now a sort of no-mans-land, almost a condominium, inhabited by citizens of two separately existing fully independent nations, the UK and Ireland (Republic of …)
So while UK vs Irish citizenship are placed in contrast, Scottish and British citizenship are for the moment at least complementary, two layers of the same cake. With Scottish independence, we’ll have the dissolution of Great Britain, the British State, the bit to the south will simply be ‘England’ (+ other bits) just as it was prior to the Union.
I’m sure many readers travelled to the border from the republic over the 30 years of the troubles. It was like approaching an armed concentration camp – watchtowers, soldiers, armed police on patrol, stop and search of cars and lorries, people decanted from trains on to buses because of bombs or bomb scares.
Given the prevailing atmosphere, there were fearful never-ending journeys within NI to one’s destination, expecting to be stopped on a whim, held for an indefinite period of time, vehicle and body searches.
And that was for plain, ordinary people going about their daily business of visiting relatives and friends who travelled on “approved” roads
Yet as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, for almost 50 years pre-troubles, a ‘normal’ ‘civilian’ customs border was maintained just as everywhere in Europe at the time. Except there was no passport control, just the odd check for contraband, same as when you came in at the ports. If the ‘troubles’ really are a thing of the past, why would this be a problem? Why inflame and politicise a purely administrative arrangement, same as at all EU external borders??
There are already vastly increased instances of violence mostly committed against the Irish pre-Brexit. Similar to the huge rise in violence against foreigners in England proper. The entities causing the original conflict are apparently encouraged to push for supreme power once again, and all indicators point to this being everything other than a purely administrative arrangement and that it will purely serve to harass, demean, and unduly impact the freedom of, Irish citizens. Exactly the material the “troubles” were made of. Don’t forget the war (“troubles”) didn’t start until unarmed Irish civilians were killed for absolutely no fathomable reason and after no systemic relief for the atrocities were granted. Until that time, people begrudgingly accepted all the sectarian “Jim-Crow” bulls..t, the ghettos, and employment disparages they had to endure for the previous hundreds of years. The killings turned out to be just a little too much.
The British Conservative government is in the embarrassing position of having to rely on the DUP nut-jobs to have a majority in parliament. This is a very unusual situation and seriously limits May’s options. Sooner or later there will need to be an election, so that either the Tories have a working majority, or they bow out and hand to poison chalice of Brexit over to Labour and sit back and watch the fun. But either way, once the DUP veto is removed, any customs barrier will be in the Irish Sea, and the island of Ireland will edge just a little closer towards reunification.
As for the levels of xenophobia in the UK, England mainly I think, this is due to a certain strata of society still believing that Britain is (or should be) a world power, they are still in denial over losing the empire and their world status after WWII. And the fact that Germany seems to be doing so well is simply a red rag to a bull.
All that does not excuse armed thugs threatening Irish citizens out of their homes in the occupied six counties without civilised government taking appropriate action. Nothing has changed in the way we are are valued in 800+ years and apparently nothing will, ever. This is not about how english government is in a “special catch,” or any red tags, it is simply about negating any humanity in the Irish “farm animal.” This is not the first english government to turn a blind eye in order to preserve their fleeting power.
So given that the Republic has some input to the North since the GFA why aren’t they doing anything? At the very least they could publicise and raise a stink about such goings-on (if real, evidence?) They’re certainly not really known about in Britain. The general attitude over here is probably along the lines of “one side is as bad as the other”, and inevitably followed up by reminders of various mainland atrocities by republicans etc.
The first is a good question, I ask myself that on a daily basis. Evidence? really? How’s this for example?
Of course it is not known throughout Britain, that’s the point, isn’t it? As far as “one side is as bad as the other,” that is kind of misplaced considering the one side is the occupier, and the other the occupied. Is this the real Marconatrix or an imposter?
If I hear one more genteel reference to the “Troubles” I shall start having dark thoughts about garden fertilizer and its varied uses. IT WAS A WAR. A 30-year war. Anyone on here that says otherwise and belittles it, as “Troubles”, is insulting the dead and the injured, the political prisoners, etc etc…..(Which is why people do it). Likewise, all this reference to “Agreements”. No, they were international peace treaties, with Guarantees from foreign states. Everybody got that?…. Some people seem determined to start more “Troubles”. We are now deeply into the most serious situation in the History of Ireland. I fear the worst.