If the deal that Boris Johnson has negotiated with the EU passes, the whole of the UK will leave both the EU Single Market and the EU’s Customs Union. Let’s be clear. This is Brexit. It isn’t Brexit in Name Only. All of the UK, Northern Ireland too will be leaving the EU.
The Irish Backstop has been removed. Northern Ireland will no longer have to stay in the Customs Union after the UK left. The international border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will remain open. There won’t be an international border between Northern Ireland and the other parts of the UK. Northern Ireland will be just as much a part of the UK’s internal market as it is at present.
There will be some alignment between Northern Ireland and Ireland in order to maintain the all-Ireland economy which at present exists in certain areas such as electricity. There will be some monitoring of goods transported across the Irish sea between Britain and Northern Ireland. These checks for the most part will be carried out by British officials. No one travelling between Britain and the UK will be checked or hindered in any way. In fact, it’s entirely unclear if anyone is even going to notice whatever checks take place. There will be an arrangement whereby goods which might end up being exported from the Britain to Ireland via Northern Ireland will be charged EU duty. If they don’t in fact go south, but remain in Northern Ireland this duty will be repaid.
The Northern Irish Assembly if it ever gets up and running again will have a say on these arrangements. Neither side of the community will have a veto. This appears to be what the DUP is objecting to. But if a simple majority wishes to change matters, they can be changed.
This isn’t a bad deal. We all agreed that “No deal was better than a bad deal.” But this isn’t that. It may not give Brexiteers everything that we want. But this is enormously better than Theresa May’s deal. The UK will be able to make trade deals with other countries. Those deals will apply to the whole of the UK. We will no longer have to apply the EU’s common external tariff. The UK’s Parliament and Government will not be subordinate to the EU and it’s laws.
I would greatly prefer that the DUP were onboard, but Northern Ireland’s position as an integral part of the UK may end up being safer than if we went down the no deal route. A hard border in Ireland might persuade enough nationalists on both sides of the border that the only solution is a united Ireland. The present deal doesn’t change Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as part of the UK, it just does what is necessary to keep the border in Ireland open. My view is that a border poll in Ireland would be unlikely to take place peacefully. If either side lost closely it might prefer to go back to bombs rather than ballots. Better by far that both communities in Northern Ireland get some of what they want and that those who want to be Irish can be Irish and those who want to be British can be British. This deal just might keep the peace.
With the whole of the UK completely outside the EU, the SNP are going to be faced with a horrible dilemma. They are not going to be able to argue that Scotland should be given the Northern Irish option because Northern Ireland will be completely outside both the Customs Union and the Single Market.
Scottish Independence would mean that whatever trade deals the UK negotiates in the coming years would not apply to Scotland. It would mean Scotland having to apply to join the EU from scratch or alternatively having to negotiate trade deals both with the UK and the EU at the same time. Joining the EU would require joining the Euro and Schengen which would inevitably lead to a hard border between England and Scotland. Moreover, the SNP would have to explain to the Scottish electorate that they wanted to make the Scottish Parliament less powerful by giving back to the EU those powers over fisheries, agriculture etc etc. that the UK will get back from the EU. The vast majority of these powers will be devolved to the various Parliaments and assemblies.
It has taken three years for the UK to get an acceptable deal from the EU. How long would it take Scotland to get an acceptable deal from both the UK and the EU. Do Scots really want to go through these kinds of negotiations again?
Scotland being in the EU while the UK is out is a nightmare scenario for Scotland, but Scotland being outside both the UK and the EU is if anything even worse. This is why the SNP oppose Brexit and why they will vote against any deal or no deal. Scottish independence depends on the whole of the UK remaining in the EU.
I regret that Northern Ireland is being treated in any way differently to the other parts of the UK. Belfast is as British as Burnley and Bognor Regis. But If Northern Ireland was sold down the river it was not today rather it was when we signed the Belfast Agreement in 1998. But if we hadn’t signed it would Northern Ireland be as peaceful today as it is? Probably not. This was the price that we had to pay for peace.
The Belfast Agreement gave Dublin leverage and it has played its hand well. But Ireland set out to thwart Brexit and keep the UK in the EU, and there is little doubt that this was its aim, it may have failed. A united Ireland is no closer today than it was yesterday, last year or indeed in 1998. The UK subsidised Northern Ireland massively and the Northern Irish economy is closely integrated with the rest of the UK. Who would pay for Northern Ireland if Belfast and Dublin were united? Who would keep the peace if unification was less than peaceful? The Boris deal while treating Northern Ireland slightly differently from the other parts of the UK will bring Northern Ireland closer to the UK and further away from Ireland because the UK as a whole will over time diverge from the EU. If the DUP want Northern Irish to remain British forever their task is to persuade Northern Irish citizens who feel Irish that they also can feel equally British.
The Boris deal is not everything I might have wanted, but it is the best deal we are going to get. It is better than no deal. Brexiteers should get behind it. Farage should disband his party and we all Leavers should vote for Boris. Only a very short while ago the Remainers thought they had won. If we get out over the next few days and weeks it will be the Remoaners who will be moaning not least because they will know that the UK will never re-join the EU. Scottish nationalists too will reflect that this will be the moment that Scottish independence became impossible.
This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2019/10/all-behind-you-boris.html