Brexit and the Irish Border

I can’t claim to exactly understand all the issues at play in Brexit, whether the social factors that led to the referendum that started Brexit, the political bartering between Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU, or otherwise. From what I can gather, however, there is division and discord on nearly every significant issue. As one (important) example, the EU allows free movement of peoples across borders inside the EU, while the U.K. wants the authority to vet and control the individuals that enter the country. Despite the discord, there is one issue upon which both sides agree: there cannot be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

A hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland recalls the turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, when terrorism rocked Ireland and Northern Ireland. No party wishes to precipitate a recurrence of this violence. As of yet, there has not been a proposed solution that satisfies both sides. As an example of a proposed (and rejected) solution, there could be a soft border in Ireland with strict controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. This plan has been rejected since it would merely divide the United Kingdom and encourage Ireland to unite. However, early on in the process of negotiating Brexit, the EU demanded that there be a “backstop” solution to the Irish border question; a failsafe that would kick in, should the U.K. and EU fail to find a compromise regarding the Irish border.

The backstop is this: the U.K. would leave the EU (i.e. they would no longer have representation in the EU) while remaining in the EU Customs Union. Such an occurrence does not significantly effect the EU, while such an eventuality would leave many in the U.K. dissatisfied. Essentially, they would still be bound my many of the rules and regulations of the EU, without having any say in the creation of these laws. Personally, I see no particularly clear solution to this problem that can satisfy all parties involved. This issue serves to highlight the many factors and complexities that muddy the waters in international relations.

P.S. For those interested in some excellent summary information in this topic, check out CGP Grey on YouTube – there is a series of videos on the topic of Brexit, including reasonably clear summaries at the many issues and factors at play.



I used “What is the Irish Backstop, and Why is it Holding Up Brexit?” as my source for background info on this post. <>