Finally, the deadline for Brexit is approaching, and time is running out for the UK and the European Union to come to terms with a deal to smoothly transition. The probability of such a deal happening dwindles with every passing day. And without such a deal there could be major consequences particularly regarding the “Good Friday Peace Agreement” and stability in Northern Ireland.
Which all sets the stage for October 31, will the UK leave the EU without a deal in-place and just how bad will that be? Boris Johnson has said no matter what, on the 31st the UK is “packing our bags and walking out”. Furthermore, Johnson exclaims that the blame would rest squarely on the shoulders of the EU bureaucrats in Brussels and not with him or British officials.
However, given the plans produced by Johnson it is clear there is little desire for concessions in resolving the problems with any agreement. The whole point of Brexit was to restore the sovereign borders of the UK, to regain control. However, this “divorce” may awaken disorder and unrest resolved by The Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998.
Johnson has made it crystal clear he fully intends to maintain the agreements of that deal; but it isn’t all up to him as the Republic of Ireland will be remaining in the EU which share a border with Northern Ireland (UK). Unfortunately, Johnson’s ideas on how to achieve this would need to include many accommodations. Under his plans Northern Ireland would remain aligned with EU single market rules but the UK would have jurisdiction over customs rules.
Essentially this is asking to bend the laws of the EU and can set a dangerous precedent from the EU’s perspective for potential future exits from the European Union. This is an issue because this means the two sides are clearly still very far apart on how best to resolve these dilemmas as clearly the EU doesn’t wish to accept this. In one month, this issue just can’t be resolved.
Creating a suitable deal is complicated by the fact that in Northern Ireland 55.8% of people wish to stay a part of the European Union. Perhaps the most fair way to complete this would be to finally reunite the North with the rest of Ireland, but would this be acceptable to Boris Johnson and unionists? Probably not, in fact it seems more likely Johnson will have to concede when it comes to customs checkpoints.
Although Johnson denies its validity a plan was leaked that showed plans for checkpoints miles away from Irish border; seemingly betraying the Good Friday Agreement and bringing back a hard border to Northern Ireland. This would be devastating for the Irish people who for years struggled to keep connection with their relatives and friends south of the border. Apparently though, this critical issue to the Irish people isn’t important enough to Johnson to prolong the process in order to come to an agreement that will preserve the peace and see to it that the UK leaves the EU.
“We want our country back” or “take back control” and many other phrases motivated this populist surge to leave the EU. But these ideas do not capture the interests of Northern Ireland as more of their governing will now be controlled by London than it is in Dublin. No longer does what mainland England want and what the people of Northern Ireland want line-up, not even with unionists.
Does it not matter how these people wish to live their lives? Shouldn’t they be allowed to decide as a community, for themselves, rather than being lumped in with all of the UK? Of course, this would be against the national interests of the UK and it’s hard to imagine them being willing to give up Northern Ireland given that would mean Boris Johnson would have to betray his base. All of this drama and uncertainty should lead people to be very pessimistic about the prospects of achieving a deal before the October 31 deadline.
Bayer, Lili. 2019. “Johnson: UK ‘packing our bags and walking out’ in 25 days”. Politico. https://www.politico.eu/article/boris-johnson-uk-packing-our-bags-and-walking-out-in-25-days-brexit/
Taylor, Paul. 2019. “Has Europe Reached Peak Populism?”. Politico. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/09/05/has-europe-reached-peak-populism-228036
Garner, Oliver. 2019. “The Johnson plan: a challenge to the EU legal order”. The UK in a Changing Europe. https://ukandeu.ac.uk/the-johnson-plan-a-challenge-to-the-eu-legal-order/
Reid, David. 2019. “Boris Johnson promises no checks ‘at or near’ Irish border as new Brexit offer is delivered”. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/02/boris-johnson-promises-no-brexit-checks-at-irish-border.html
Specia, Megan. Mueller, Benjamin. 2019. “What do Ireland and Northern Ireland Want from Brexit”. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/world/europe/ireland-northern-ireland-brexit-backstop.html
Morillas, Pat. 2019. “Setting the Brexit agenda: Populism and UKIP in the United Kingdom“. Barcelona Center for International Affairs. https://www.cidob.org/en/articulos/cidob_report/n1_1/setting_the_brexit_agenda_populism_and_ukip_in_the_united_kingdom
Proctor, Kate. 2019. “Boris Johnson Dismisses Leaked Irish Border Plans as ‘Not Quite Right’”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/01/boris-johnson-dismisses-leaked-irish-border-plans-as-not-quite-right