The country most affected by Brexit, other than the United Kingdom, is likely to be Ireland*. This is the only nation that shares an actual land border with the UK. Additionally, the UK is Ireland’s largest export market in the current EU (The exports to Belgium are higher value but most of this is shipped on).
*In truth though, all of the remaining 27 countries will be affected by the UK’s Brexit since Britain is the second largest contributor to the EU budget and either EU spending must be cut or other countries must fill the gap with higher contributions. Or a combination, thereof. Though how Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy would be persuaded to fund the EU largesse showered on countries like Poland, I cannot contemplate.
The land border between the UK and Ireland lies between Northern Ireland/Ulster and the Republic. This was, prior to the 1997 Peace Agreement, a much troubled area, IRA terrorists often visiting death and mayhem on people in Ulster and then fleeing across the border to the Republic in the South. These same terrorists are now part of the devolved government of Northern Ireland!
What happens to that border, post-Brexit?
What I am about to suggest will upset some right-thinking people and maybe lead them to believe I propose rewarding terrorists but please stay with me.
I propose two connected actions.
The Republic of Ireland to also exercise its rights under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and leave the EU and the Euro currency, timed to coincide with the final departure date of the UK.
On the date of this departure, the Republic of Ireland to once again become part of the United Kingdom and as a consequence re- join the Commonwealth. And, as a simultaneous act, Ulster to become part of the devolved government of a united Ireland. The powers of this united Ireland would be the same as those enjoyed by the devolved government of Scotland – principally responsibility for domestic issues – health, education, social care, policing, etc. and the ability for limited local tax-raising powers. Defence and Foreign Affairs as well as overall tax and financial policy to remain with the Westminster parliament.
Okay, so, at first glance this would seem to reward the murderous IRA and give them what they have so long fought for – a united Ireland. However, this Ireland will be part of the United Kingdom and Ulster’s Protestant majority should be able to take comfort that their traditions will be respected and protected by the government of the United Kingdom. Perhaps the devolved government can rotate the seat of government between Dublin and Belfast (just like the EU parliament rotates between Brussels and Strasbourg).
For Ireland this would represent an opportunity to protect tariff-free access to a significant export market. They would also have the opportunity to become a part of the free trade agreement that will be established between the UK (it’s second largest export market) and the USA (Ireland’s largest export market) and the traditional goodwill, extended to the Irish by Americans can only enhance the chances of a good free trade agreement between the UK and USA.
Of course there would be adjustments needed to harmonise social laws and Ireland would need to ditch its policy of neutrality but on the former there is a narrowing gap, anyway.
Ireland is more closely aligned with the Anglo-Saxon approach to market economics than to the European model favoured especially by countries like France. This would smooth any transition.
In terms of immigration, Ireland wouldn’t seem to be a threat as there has long been unfettered movement of people between the two countries – ever before the European Superstate was even thought of.
Another thing that occurs to me is that given Ireland has received significant injections of EU provided funds, which have been invested in roads and other infrastructure projects, then this would negate the need for the EU to refund the UK with the surplus contributions it has made, over the years.
Oh yes, I think, contrary to the fools who think the UK should pay a hefty divorce settlement (£ or €50-60 billion is mentioned), the UK should be compensated, on departure for the assets it has contributed to, which will remain after we leave. It is ludicrous that when people talk about this ‘divorce’ they talk only of future commitments and turn 27 pairs of blind eyes to all of the assets that were built up, using UK funds, during the ‘marriage’.
Consider though that this idea isn’t followed.
There would surely need to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. You can’t have freedom of movement between the Republic and the rest of the EU and an open border. Similarly a hard border would be required to ensure that trade is administered in accordance with the eventual trade agreement that is reached between the UK and EU. (Scottish Nationalists – do take note that were you to achieve independence and subsequently membership of the European Union, these requirements would also apply between Scotland and England)
From an Irish perspective, they would be sacrificing sovereignty but gain a long cherished dream of a united Ireland and also access to a strong economy and market. Some would say that the Irish would be dominated by the English but consider too, that the loss of sovereignty needs to be seen in the light of exactly how much sovereignty the Irish really have in a German-dominated EU.
Another thing that would need to be considered – and this might help assuage the fears of the constituent parts of the UK – is that a parliament for England’s would need to be established. Right now the English, rightly, feel hard done by as Scotland’s, Wales’ and Northern Ireland’s parliaments/assemblies receive generous subsidies at the expense of the English taxpayers. This is something that Scottish Nationalists conveniently ignore but if they do hope to achieve independence and to join the EU (bizarrely then relinquishing their newly won independence) then they will need to bridge a current £15 billion annual deficit which would be even higher when a post-independence Scotland also has to take on a share of the UK’s national debt – rough estimate £8 billion a year cost.
Please give it some thought and let me know what you think.