image of a map of ireland

I wrote this piece in December 2017. Despite the draft deal between the EU and the UK being published last week, it’s now Mid November 2018 and it seems we are actually not much further forward and are probably going rapidly backwards.

With the UK leaving the EU in early 2019, there are tough negotiations ahead when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of trade talks. Trade is the lifeblood of any nation and in particular an island nation like the UK and Eire. But before any talks on trade can be started, the EU insists on two main points being ironed out first. How much is the UK willing to pay the EU in a divorce settlement and what will happen to the border between Eire (southern Ireland) and the UK in the form of Northern Ireland.

The divorce bill, i.e., what Britain will pay in it’s ongoing commitment to the EU budget, up until Brexit that is – though there will be EU projects the UK will still want to participate in, not least of which are ongoing science projects. This divorce bill seems now to have been settled. But what about Northern Ireland. The current border is what’s called a soft border, in that there are no customs posts between the north and south as both are currently in the EU. But when the UK leaves what sort of border will there be?

A Hard Border

A hard border is exactly as the title suggests. Check-points, vehicle searches and customs posts dotted along the lengthy divide between the UK & the EU. Nobody in Ireland really wants to go back to the days when there was a border manned by armed soldiers and police.

The current border is much like that between countries in mainland Europe who are part of the Schengen Area. This region allows free flow of goods and people with no borders. This is exactly as it is in Ireland, though neither country is part of Schengen, it’s more of a mutual agreement. But a hard border puts a stop to this and many people and businesses in both countries will suffer if we end up with a hard border.

Having lived in Belfast, I know that the vast majority of people in the north and the south simply want to get on with their lives. Politics and religion shouldn’t come into any of this, but Ireland is a divided nation on exactly these grounds. The main Catholic and Republican south versus the mainly Protestant and Royalist north. For many years these two sides have had their issues but have mainly worked together. But that has slowly changed with the deaths of the two leaders from the opposing sides who had a good working relationship. These days things are less cordial and with Brexit there are bigger fractures appearing on both sides.

However, there are glimmers of hope and today it’s been announced that British PM Theresa May has rushed off to meet EU negotiators with a potential solution. But, don’t hold your breath. This is a four horse race between the EU, UK, Eire and Northern Ireland and each are jockeying for a good position of strength from which to dictate their own narrow agenda.

The issues in Ireland are anything but straightforward.

ADDITIONAL

Breaking news and it looks like a deal has been achieved between the EU and UK… but there’s still a long way to go.

Tom Kane © 2017

As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.

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Living in Cyprus: 2015 here

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