Saturday, July 29, 2017

Unapproved Roads

To the left is an illustration that the Irish Sunday Business Post -- a Brexit sneaking regarder publication -- has with a report on the areas of Ireland adjacent to the border with Northern Ireland. The West Brexit contingent has been quite busy over the last few days, inflamed by Michel Barnier's blunt assessment that Britain had presented no proposal on how to deal with the Irish border, leading to a revival of demands that this proves Ireland must leave the European Union.

Anyway, the focus on the land border is understandable, but it's a trap. The main impact of Brexit on Ireland and Northern Ireland will not happen through the land border. Violence imposed a much harder border than customs posts ever did, and people found ways to function across the border even then. The main impacts will happen through the disruption to the UK's trade, investment, travel and migration links with Ireland that currently operate on the presumption that both are EU members -- and only a tiny fraction of those links involve physical crossing of the land border.

So there will be scenic photography and warm Prosecco-worthy tales of borders passing through people's gardens as Dublin and London reporters head to Armagh and Donegal to cover the border issue. But the fixation on the border has as much to do with a perspective locked in, like Trump and 1980s television, in the era of the Troubles, on the border as a source of banditry and violence, as its current economic significance. And it lends itself to a view that razzle-dazzle technology, cameras etc, can "solve" the Brexit problem with Ireland, when it's actually a sideshow. It's that view that Ireland's government rightly lost patience with in the last few days; the border is an important issue, but it can best be solved by things that the Brexiters still do not want to acknowledge: the customs union, EEA, EFTA, or some other option that the UK government would need to start working on!

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