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Old 07-29-2019, 08:06 AM
Stanislaus is offline
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: London
Posts: 3,067
Originally Posted by iiandyiiii View Post
So what happens with Northern Ireland in a no-deal Brexit? If a hard border is resurrected, would there be a risk of a return to The Troubles?
Yes, in short. A hard border with customs checks, vehicle inspections etc, or even just with licence plate cameras would provide both a catalyst and a set of targets for the crazies to take action. It can't be stressed enough how much of a pacifying effect the absence of border infrastructure has had in NI.

But there are other potential flashpoints too. Under the Good Friday Agreement, there is a devolved power-sharing Assembly in NI which has power to deal with various policy areas such as agriculture, infrastructure, justice, health etc. The sharing of power between nationalist and unionist parties has always been fraught with tension, especially as the largest parties representing these groups are Sinn Fein and the DUP, respectively. (Sinn Fein being of course the political wing of the IRA, and the DUP being the hardest of the hard-line unionists with their own ties to paramilitary orgs).

In Jan 2017 these tensions reached breaking point, as the two main parties fell to loggerheads after a political scandal. The Assembly was suspended, and hasn't resumed in the 2.5 years since. (One of the reasons the situation is difficult to resolve is that Westminster would be expected to act as an honest broker/facilitator of negotiations and while this would always be a bit difficult for nationalists to swallow, the fact the Westminster Tory government is only in power because of a deal with DUP MPs makes any claim to disinterested arbitration laughably hollow).

Anyhow, NI has been struggling on without a devolved legislature and just about getting by. In the event of No Deal however, there would have to be a great deal of legislation passed affecting e.g. infrastructure and agriculture and there simply wouldn't be time to hammer out a deal that would get the Assembly up and running again. So what would have to happen is that Westminster would have to impose direct rule: a massively retrograde step and, insofar as steps can be inflammatory, an incredibly inflammatory one.

This point was recently made in a paper by the Institute of Government (an independent think tank which analyses policy and politics); when this point has been put to the new Foreign Secretary and to the new PM's spokesperson, both have failed to deny it.

In the Troubles, the basic assumptions were that the people of NI could be Irish, or they could be British, but they couldn't be both and forcing them to pick either one was both the only option and a terrible injustice. The open border and the Assembly presented a new option, which was essentially that you could in fact be both; you could trade and travel freely with Ireland, and while you were still technically ruled by the UK actually a lot of the decisions were being made locally. So everyone could just...chill out a bit and get on with their daily lives without being confronted with harsh dichotomies.

No Deal Brexit risks bringing back not just symbols of the old binary approach, but the on-the-ground realities. It seems quite plausible that some associated factors will return too.