Brexit explained: What is the problem with the Irish border?


Why is Northern Ireland holding up
Brexit? It’s the smallest nation in the UK and the one with the fewest residents but Northern Ireland’s has become one of the biggest parts of the Brexit
negotiations. In fact, its border could end up deciding the future of the whole
of Europe. So why is the Irish border question so important? After Brexit the
border between England, Scotland and Wales will stay exactly the same because
well we’re all on one island, which doesn’t border any EU countries and
because Northern Ireland is part of the UK it will leave the European Union too
But unlike England Scotland and Wales it shares a border with an EU country: The
Republic of Ireland. So this 300 mile stretch will be the
brand-new external border of the European Union and there lies the big
problem. You see they’re worried about how you would go about checking the
goods crossing in and out of the EU. So what are the options? Maybe you could
just build some customs posts and fences along the border but for a load of
people that is the last thing they want. Northern Ireland has had fences and
checkpoints on the border before and during that time more than 3,600 people
died in a 30 year conflict known as The Troubles. And the issue of the border was
at the heart of this fighting over the sovereignty of Northern Ireland. There
were fears that putting fences back up could lead to return of the violence of
the past and like I said nobody wants that. But negotiators, they’re struggling to come up with a solution to make the border work. So why is it so hard? Well first we need to go back almost 100
years. This is the island of Ireland. It all used to be part of Britain until a
bloody War of Independence. Between 1919 and 1921, the Irish Republican Army and
British security forces were at war. Then at the end of the conflict, Ireland was
split up. The southern part became a separate country but Northern Ireland
stayed in the United Kingdom. But that wasn’t the end of the argument.
Nationalists and Republicans mostly drawn from the Catholic
wanted a united Ireland. Unionists and Loyalists most of them Protestant vowed
to keep the province British. In the late 1960s violence erupted, Republican and
loyalist paramilitaries fought each other and British soldiers stationed in
Northern Ireland clashed with Republicans. Finally in 1998, there was a
breakthrough peace deal. The Good Friday Agreement and a drastic reduction in
violence. In the years that followed, the British army checkpoints were removed and Eydie and custom shells disappeared. Now the border is almost invisible if
you’re really paying attention you might notice the road signs changing from
miles to kilometers. But that’s just about it. Then Britain voted from Brexit. Theresa May made it clear that any exit deal we struck would mean leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union. That means the
border will become the crossing point for goods entering the EU from outside. Now that’s really the core of the issue. EU negotiators say they want some kind
of customs control, they want to stop products that don’t meet EU standards
like unsafe food crossing the border Police in Northern Ireland say a hard
border would become a target for dissident Republicans, hardline Irish
nationalists who have vowed to carry on attacking symbols of British rule. The EU
and the British and Irish government all agree that they don’t want a half order
to return. But they can’t agree on what to do about
customs checks. There has been talk of some kind of high-tech solution that
would mean lorries could cross the border without being stopped and checked. All checks could be done away from the border. This is actually what happens
already to control cross-border trade in some goods including fuel alcohol and
tobacco. But there’s a danger that a proper deal can’t be worked out in time. The EU has always said it wants a backstop: An agreement about what would
happen if no detailed plan for Brexit is in place. Brussels thinks the answer
is for Northern Ireland to stay in the Customs Union. That would effectively
mean pushing the border back to here: The sea border between Northern Ireland and
Great Britain. But it also means treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the United Kingdom. So now it’s Unionists not Republicans who’d be angry. Teresa May’s party is still officially called
the “Conservative and Unionist party”. The Tories are committed to Northern Ireland
remaining part of the UK and because the last General Election didn’t go as well
as expected, the Prime Minister now relies on a Northern Irish unionist
party, the DUP to give her majority in
Parliament. So Northern Irish unionists effectively
have a veto on British government policy. Mrs May needs to hammer out some kind of
compromise and she has hinted about keeping Britain in some kind of customs
arrangement. She needs to find a solution that will satisfy Brussels, her unionist colleagues and the wider British public. And if nothing else, the last two years
of Brexit negotiations have shown that it won’t be easy. Now we’ve done a few of
these Brexit explainers so far this is the third one and there’s going to be
more coming and if you have any ideas about what we should talk about whether
it’s tariffs, which we’ve already done and hard border would you just heard
about let us know in the comments below and like and subscribe to keep them
coming.

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