The border in Ireland is going to become real
The good news – the UK is going to leave the European Union. The bad news – Ireland is going to suffer due to an unwanted border.
The Irish government has been hoping that the British government will not place physical barriers at the border in Ireland when the UK leaves the EU in the next few years. The Irish government have been neither realistic nor honest with people in Ireland about this matter.
It was plain to see that there would have be some type of physical border in Ireland if the UK was going to leave the EU. The border in Ireland will become a major international border such as is found in eastern Poland with Belarus and with Russia or with the USA and Mexico and with Canada.
The Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and other ministers have not been willing to openly state that there will be a hard border in Ireland when the UK leaves. They somehow hoped that the UK would be nice to Ireland and do Ireland a favour by not imposing border controls in Ireland.
This was political nonsense. The English people voted to leave the EU as they despised the uncontrolled immigration into Britain – not realising that it is a huge compliment to your country when so many people want to move it. Having made their decision, the British government is not going to leave a border in Ireland wide open so that people can still enter the UK via Ireland.
As an Irish person it annoys me that the Irish government acted like this. I would much prefer that the Irish government stated matter of factly that there will be a hard border and that Ireland is going to suffer. At least then we can start from a realistic position when the negociations for the UK’s exit begins next year. If we went into the negociations with an unfounded hope that the UK was going to maybe not impose border controls in Ireland, then the Irish ministers will be starting from a weak position. It is much better for Ireland to enter the negociations where it expects that the border will be tightened rather than be seriously disappointed and embarrassed when the British government does not do it.
A letter that hits the nail on the head
A chara, – It is about time that the Government and the political parties in Ireland faced the reality regarding the Border in Ireland when the UK will no longer be in the EU. There will have to be some type of control at the Border.
The English people voted (and it was primarily the English) to leave the EU as they have a huge dislike of uncontrolled immigration to Britain. They are not going to accept that the Irish Border will be kept as it is at present so that someone could fly to Ireland, head north, cross the Border without any checks into the UK and then make their way freely to Britain.
As much as the Government might appeal to the UK government to do Ireland a favour and not reimpose controls and visa requirements at the Border, the priority for the British government will be to look after their own interests in Britain. Why should the UK vote to leave the EU but then keep a back door wide open that would allow uncontrolled immigration?
The Government should be honest with the Irish people and stop dreaming that the Border will be left unchanged. What the Government should be preparing for is the UK to leave the EU, followed shortly thereafter by Scotland becoming independent, and then the consequences for Ireland and Irish unity of these events.
Scotland becoming independent and Northern Ireland becoming fragile are realistic scenarios. Hoping that the UK will not tighten up its Irish Border is an unrealistic scenario. – Is mise,
SEANÁN Ó COISTÍN,
A good response to my letter
Needless to say I was delighted that the Irish Times chose to publish my letter. I received some messages from people who know me and who had read the letter.
“Excellent letter on Irish Times, straightforward, simple language that hits the nail on the head.
10 out of 10.
Another message I received was:
“Good letter in today’s Times and I agree”
When people contact you to congratulate on writing a good letter, it is a sign that many people hold the same opinion.
I am sure that there are many people all over Ireland who are very concerned about the impact that the hard border will have on Ireland. No one wants to have to show their passports to cross a border that the majority of people in Ireland do not want.
The UK’s options
The UK does have options in regard to the Irish border:
1. Leave Ireland entirely – the preferred option for most Irish people but not likely to happen soon.
2. Let geography dictate – the easiest and best way to prevent movement of people from Ireland to Britain is to treat Ireland as a separate island (which it is) and demand that anyone crossing from Ireland to Britain be checked for passports on arrival in Britain. Probably unlikely to be pursued as the pro-British population in the north of Ireland will be furious at the British government for doing so.
3. Make visible the invisible border – the worst option. First of all the majority of people who live near the border never asked for it and don’t want it. They will really resent a British government breaking up their lives by imposing physical barriers, passport controls, custom checks and other necessary border activity. If the UK government wanted to give republicans in Ireland a reason to re-energise the Irish Republican Army, then this will be the best way to do it. Wait till British border agents are attacked in south county Ard Mhacha and the British government will rue the day they decided to create and reinforce the border in Ireland.
The main political issue in Ireland in the future
The reinforced, hard border will become the main political issue in Ireland in the coming years. It will cause furious resentment amongst many people along the border and in the general public in Ireland. This is why I am annoyed at the Irish government for being naive about this.
It is well worth reading this opinion piece by Tony Connelly about this issue. He explains in detail how much of a headache the UK’s departure is going to be for all sides.
A fantastic programme to watch is the Border Stories programme presented by Éamonn Mallie on Irish TV. The first programme in the series shows exactly how difficult it will be to reinforce the border and also how disruptive it will be for the communities living there.