Monday 27th November
In the Nineteenth Century one of the intractable problems was the Irish Question. Unlike the rest of the Empire there was some representation for Ireland in the British Parliament, even if many of the seats were either ‘rotten’ (controlled by a landowner), or usurped by upper class English gentlemen who had barely sat foot in their constituencies (much like today). The big question was, should Ireland be granted ‘Home Rule’. Every so often the Irish would rebel, and then in 1915 they were successful, and the state of Eire was born. But the big problem with Ireland has always been the religious divide. For centuries there have been troubles between the majority in the South who are Catholic and the majority in the North who are Protestant. The British who, in the middle of World War 1, gave in and allowed the South to be independent, hung onto the Northern counties known as Ulster. Legally this is part of the United Kingdom, and although they voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU (as did Scotland) they will be dragged out of it by the Tories of England.
So….the island of Ireland will be mostly in the EU, with free movement of people and goods, but the Northern enclave will be out of the EU, with no free movement of people and goods – and most likely tariffs on goods traded across the border.
But….an important part of the Northern Ireland Agreement was that there should be no border between the two states in Ireland.
The EU is insisting that no border will be re-instated. The British Government has agreed in theory. But nobody has any idea how this will work in practice. Without a border there will be nothing to stop smuggling of both goods and people – and it will probably be one-way traffic. Having no border – will make a mockery of the Brexiteers claims of controlling our borders. With one – the peace treaty, already in serious trouble, will probably collapse. The only real solution will be for there to be no border on the island of Ireland, but passport and custom controls between the island of Britain and the island of Ireland
In effect this will mean the Unification of Ireland, with almost certainly different rules in the North and a degree of self-government. How this will go down with the Protestant majority is hard to guess. Will they slowly begin to accept the control of Dublin rather than London? Or will civil war break out again? It may be that in a strange way Cameron has done more to help the political ambitions of Sinn Fein by calling the referendum than he imagined. To say nothing of what will happen in Scotland. Brexit may actually usher in the beginnings of the end of the United Kingdom itself.