Did BrExit just solve the Irish question?


What’s done isn’t quite done.

What, for example, are the terms of BrExit exit?

And how will they be agreed?

Brookings Fellow Tom Wright asks, “If it is right and proper for the people to have a say on EU membership, shouldn’t they also have a say on the outcome of the negotiations to determine whether they are what the Leave campaign promised?

What terms should Northern Ireland’s leaders now be seeking?

Simple: Northern Ireland must stay within the EU and the UK.

Northern Ireland and Scotland can and must make common cause on this objective immediately.

The nature of the U.K. demands change in order to be saved.

For Scottish nationalists, this represents the smart play.

The SNP, even now, can’t be complacent about winning a second Scottish independence referendum – should they secure one. But a Scotland that shares a union with Europe, while remaining within a looser U.K., is one that can be remake on solid foundations; Uniquely Scottish but anchored in the realities of local and international interdependence, not fantasies about standing alone in the modern world.

For English Nationalists – and that’s clearly what the BrExiters overwhelmingly are – well, they’ve asked for this.

Having demanded and won “national” independence and the end of a union that supposedly impeded and diluted it, will they dare deny the Scottish people the same right?

And what about the Irish, north and south, green and orange?

To most people living in Northern Ireland not named Arlene Foster and Martin McGuiness, like those studying its conflict from afar, it’s long been clear that the only “solution” would be some sort of rolling constitutional fudge.

Since “constitutional fudge” has been the trending Google search in civil service departments across the capitals of Europe since June 24th, today all of Ireland is presented with a unique opportunity amid the chaos.

Northern Ireland’s future has always required a grey area between London and Dublin where both identities can coexist.

As with post-BrExit Scotland, a Northern Ireland that shares European Union membership with the Republic of Ireland, and a union with the rest of the U.K., makes sense.

This is not the independent stand-alone Irish Republic envisioned by De Valera. No, this would be much more sensible and sustainable and than that fantasy.

This would be a stronger Ireland than ever.

An island without an internal border; two cooperative political entities sharing a outward face to the world, part-British, part-Irish, entirely European.

Pre-BrExit, Belfast’s hardline British Democratic Unionist party has championed the adoption of a corporate tax rate in harmony not with London but Dublin. Post-BrExit, the logic of this position makes the case for Belfast remaining in the U.K and in the E.U., especially if the north’s Scottish cousins lead the way.

For Belfast’s Irish nationalists, the opportunity is greater still. Since 1998’s Belfast Agreement, they’ve been in search of a question to answer and a problem to solve.

The once strong SDLP spent years arguing that “north south makes sense” but failing to explain why, or even what that meant.

Post-BrExit, it’s abundantly clear that a hard land border between Northern Ireland and the world’s largest trading bloc in the world is utterly senseless. It’s also rather dangerous.

BrExit has changed everything. But the terms of that change are up for grabs.

We can’t go backwards but for Northern Ireland, the past is best left there anyway.

Northern Ireland in the U.K and in the E.U. is a place everyone can accept.

It can be a model of sober, self-confident interdependence at a time the U.K., the E.U and the world urgently needs one.

  • Teddybear

    We could become a dominion or overseas territory like Gibralter and remain in EU in our own right whilst still be part of Uk

    Greenland was able to leave EU whilst still remaining part of Denmark. This logically implies that if Denmark had left Eu then Greenland could have remained in EU had she
    Chosen to whilst still remain part of Denmark

  • Katyusha

    I have to say, I like this idea of the North being a bridgehead into the EU, and vice-versa. We would work very well as Ireland’s Hong Kong.

    I’ll have a double helping of constitutional fudge, please.

  • ted hagan

    I actually don’t accept that most of the Brexiteers are English nationalists. Many appeared to have been working class voters, some Labour supporters, concerned about the pressures of immigration within their communities. That doesn’t make them English nationalists necessarily. Bit like the ‘white van man’ generalisation’

  • ted hagan

    Nice idea but unionists would never buy it.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Nationalists will be triggered to say all sorts of things for a little while. All just hot air. Their questions have been settled. This one was about the UK and it has been answered for the UK.

  • chrisjones2

    The volume and absurdity of Nationalist Wet Dreams on this issue just show the extent to which they realise that all hope of a UI has receded, hence SFs positioning to make them appear republican and tough when in realityy they have been assimilated

  • NotNowJohnny

    What leads you to conclude that the prospect of a united Ireland has receded as a result of Brexit?

    Surely if there is any change in the prospects it is to the contrary. The prospect of Scottish independence has certainly increased as a result of Brexit while the DUP appeared to be running scared of a border poll yesterday which indicates that they don’t believe it has decreased. I spoke to two pro union people yesterday who told me that they would now seriously consider voting for NI to leave the UK as a result of the Brexit and I’m sure someone on Slugger posted similar sentiments yesterday.

  • John Devane

    True enough.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Perhaps the better analogy is for the UK to remain in the EU (like Denmark) and for England and Wales to leave (like Greenland did).

  • Teddybear

    Good idea too and why not.

  • Teddybear

    I know several SF voters who do not want a UI right now. They’re not unhappy enough to wish to change things.

  • John Devane

    A united Ireland on the back of Brexit is very unlikely IMHO. The EU superstate is not a democracy. It’s an intransigent mismanaged institution with a failed currency union……if it was open to meaningful reform the UK referendum result may have swung towards Remain. The EU negotiations were made more difficult because without Treaty changes meaningful reform was next to impossible for David Cameron. Instead he had to sell some luke warm promises most of the UK electorate refused to buy. The pro EU vote outside England and Wales are i realise affected by more pressing issues like cross border trade

  • NotNowJohnny

    To the extent that they would vote AGAINST a United Ireland in the event of a border poll?

  • NotNowJohnny

    The best solution might actually be for England and Wales to leave the UK.

  • Declan Doyle

    Some might claim that the language you use to describe nationalists aspirations on the issue suggests that you are either overly concerned about it or still have not honestly managed to convince yourself that all hope has receded. In fact, given the current circumstances if would be far more absurd if SF didn’t call for a border poll.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Realistically a border poll remains theoretical and not a likely event for some time. Most people distinguish between a dim posssibility and a probability and as a result react pragmatically to events regardless of their national affiliation. How they WOULD vote will remain in a state of flux more dependent on perceived success than aspiration for some time to come.

  • Declan Doyle

    There is a fairly common perception out there that the majority of people from a nationalist background do not want a UI, despite the fact that recent polls show 35 percent of the North’s adults see UI has the best long term option for the North. Give those people an opportunity to put their mark on a ballot paper and let’s all accept the result and move on.

  • NotNowJohnny

    There seems to be a view that nothing has changed as a result of Brexit in respect of Scotland of Northern Ireland’s future position within the UK and consequently there is no basis for a border poll or second Scottish referendum. However we simply don’t know what effect it has had on people’s views. I spoke to a lot of very peeved off people yesterday who desperately want to remain in the EU. Becoming part of a UI is one way of doing this and therefore there is now a sound rationale for giving them that option.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And how painless or otherwise NI’s exit is will shape any changes, dilutions or strengthening in national affiliation here. If Ulster Unionism is to remain strong then special negotiations for NI will need to be entered into to avoid a casualty free transition.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I see your point (snapshot measurement of this fluctuating desire) but I tend towards the approach that it’s ‘unionists’ (speech marks to denote perception not self identification) that need to be seen to make the shift towards softening to a still theoretical UI.

    The question now is are we presented with this possible shift since Friday morning’s result?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    That depends on whether they see it as their own decision or someone else’s.

  • chrisjones2

    They call for it knowing that it will produce a resounding NO vote but also knowing that the SOS cannot legally call it. They know that because they had that clause inserted in the Act.

    So its great politics if you think that teasing and lying to the people is all that it is about

    As for the posts here the amount of fanciful scenarios dreamed up by those seeking a UI has been a wonder to behold. They need to realise that SFs ‘ success’ is in reality the success of British security policy. They have been assimilated

  • Declan Doyle

    There is nothing to stop them calling it if the will exists. Where is your proof the SF had that clause inserted?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    That’s the game non unionists (particularly themuns) should play: encourage them in their time honoured hubris and sit back and watch the protracted Greek tragedy to play out to its long drawn out but inevitable final act. Alternatively, Friday morning’s result could encourage a growing recognition that compromise ain’t gonna kill ya.

  • mac tire

    “teasing and lying to the people…”

    The irony. The people of Britain are about to find out how much they have been teased and lied to over the last few months.

    You may have made Corbyn very electable.

  • Sprite

    And when Scotland becomes independent, many people in Northern Ireland will gain the choice of a Scottish passport to add to that of a British one or an Irish one. Lots of space for different identities.

  • chrisjones2

    “The prospect of Scottish independence has certainly increased ”

    Has it really? Just how?

    Wee Nicola has decided to open negotiations with The EU. Hmm. That will be interesting to see if they will talk to her as she has no locus. Foreign Affairs are a reserved matter and the last thing the EU will want to do is open a second line of negotiations that might complicate the main deal and set a precedent for Regional Governments in, to name just two, the Basque Country or Catalonia

    Second, at the time of the last referendum the whole Scottish budget was predicated on oil at $110 / barrel. That is now a pipe dream leaving a £3bn + hole in the sums. How many Scots will vote for that?

    Indeed Nicolas big danger is that the UK Government might look and say OK, you have an overwhelming majority in the Scottish Assembly, you want freedom….fine …..will 2018 do and fire them out. That sounds fanciful but this referendum shows that a major part of the country are sick of being ignored while forced to pay the bills for the folly of others.

  • chrisjones2

    Fine ….as a Unionist I believe that the DUP should take the lead and organise one now. Out flank SF and do it

    Then see them run

  • chrisjones2

    In the end we all do what the Brits say ….Nanny pays the bills

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And also how much many focused their wider resentment towards the EU elite.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    FYI, Spain has not just voted to leave the EU. Your comparitor does not stand.

  • Roger

    What do those SF voters like so much about UKNI? What’s better there than in IRL?
    Just interested. Not saying they’re wrong. I suppose they might have government jobs maybe?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    The DUP knows the risks of showing leadership: their voter base does not like being led.

  • Roger

    Answers throw up new questions. In this case for Scotland especially.
    For Northern Ireland, there’s no new constitutional question but various practical ones like future border controls etc.

  • Teddybear

    Yes. I can’t speak for all SF voters of course but quite a few I know like their equality and social agenda but don’t want a UI for purely economic reasons

  • Roger

    presumably because its unworkable…

  • NotNowJohnny

    I think that might just be about the easiest question I have ever faced.

    On Wednesday the prospect of Scottish independence in the near future was zero as there was no basis for a second referendum and no one was calling for it.

    Today there is a definite basis for a second referendum in view of the overwhelming vote to remain in Scotland and it is already being called for in some quarters. The combination of the strength of the SNP in the HoC, the current uncertainty within the Tory party, the strong vote to remain in Scotland and the fact that the Scottish FM has said that a second referendum is “highly likely” can only point to an increase in the prospects. You’re surely not going to argue that the prospects have decreased since Wednesday?

  • NotNowJohnny

    I think it is foolish to hold the border poll prior to presenting the voter with some idea of what type of UI they are voting for. This was the Brexit approach and not a very sensible one. Would you support the commencement of negotiations led by the British and Irish governments to develop a model for a UI which would then be used to inform people voting in the border poll which you are calling for?

  • Ciaran74

    Do you thin Arlene has done a good job in Brexit?

  • Ciaran74

    …that would be ‘think’ not ‘thin Arlene’ which is a technical contradiction.

  • Teddybear

    Many do and know people who have public sector jobs. ROI (pop. 4m) to absorb nearly 2m people in one go is a huge ask and no country could absorb so many as a proportion of population

    Lack of NHS is a main concern. Paying for GP visits is another.
    The feeling of leaving a world class
    Nation like the UK to be part of smaller nation is another concern

    Finally, many do not see themselves as southern Irish and feel a people apart.

    Lower taxes in the UK helps as well.

    Yes many would say a UI is nice in the long term but in the here and now, no.

  • Kevin Breslin

    There’s a very simple answer to this … No.

  • hotdogx

    only a few defectors are required to give the critical mass, but its too early for the boarder poll

  • Roger

    Isn’t Ireland much richer than UKNI? Any one know what the GDP is in UKNI these days? Are they not encouraged by Ireland’s relative prosperity?

    With bigger pay cheques would these UKNI-SF members not be able to pay for the odd GP visit? Or take out a health insurance policy like many in Ireland do? IRL does have free healthcare for those who can’t afford it too. It’s not called NHS. I’m not sure what it’s called. I think overall health outcomes in Ireland are just as good as in the UK, though I’m open to correction if I’ve got that one wrong.

    They don’t need to see themselves as “southern” Irish either. I don’t know any one who does. And I’ve met quite a few inhabitants of that country, from all parts: northern, eastern, western and southern.

    Not sure what world-class here means. Luxembourg does pretty well too. Is it world-class or somehow lesser class than the UK? It is a minnow but I’ve been there. It’s a nice place. High standards of everything. Perhaps you mean a world famous country; one with instant name recognition. On that front, UK is certainly always going to be ahead of Ireland or Luxembourg. It’s a bigger country. It’s impact around the world, particularly historical, is huge.

    I do agree though that it would be hard for Ireland’s nearly 5m (not 4m) million to absorb UKNI’s nearly 2m. It would be disruptive. A bit like Brexit but probably more so. UKNI people would be hit with higher taxes but also with higher benefits too if they go on the dole or become single mothers or the like. Any idea what the social welfare rates are in UKNI compared to in IRL? I think they’re much higher in IRL. Less poverty in IRL but the welfare rates do create incentives not to work, hence higher unemployment. IRL is a more left wing country.

    If these UKNI-SF people are not up for a UI now, they ought to just drop it. It’s very hard to foresee circumstances when re-unification would be any less disruptive.

  • chrisjones2

    That shows how little you know. He wll not be Labour Leader by Christmas or if he is a large number of the Party will leave

  • chrisjones2

    Yes there is …read it

  • chrisjones2

    I think Brexit is the right option

  • chrisjones2

    No and its a matter for the Scots but when they see the sums it will be harrowing. I expect the pro Union vote to be higher

  • chrisjones2

    Yes it does …both those regions want to leave Spain

  • chrisjones2

    Pointless waste of time. Are you proposing to allow the Brits to design the future shape of Ireland

  • chrisjones2

    Thats the reality of financial life which you will realise as you grow

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Ah the stench of misogyny! Do you have a problem with all females, or just the ones who dare to be politicians?

  • Thomas Barber

    Chris if the recent upsurge in applications for Irish passports keep up there could be legitimate grounds for the SOS to call a border poll in the not too distant future if evidence can be produced that the majority of the population here are Irish citizens holding Irish passports.

  • Teddybear

    GDP is not a good measure. If it was everyone in Bahrain would live like kings but they don’t. Also anyone who’s been to Lifford or Limerick would not get a sense of prosperity.

    But you make good points though but I simply can see it work with great austerity imposed on everyone

  • kensei

    I’m going to say the SNP are a lot better at politics than you.

  • eamoncorbett

    I dont think you fully comprehend the gravity of what just happened , NI is the UKs weakest point and everyone from Obama to Merkel agrees this decision would be a disaster economically for Britain . Every constitutional avenue should be explored with a view to rejoining the EU . England and Wales are gonners , Scotland and NI still have hope if they have the political will , alas Arlene has her shades on and cannot see the light , as with the Tory sceptics who see the prize as being more important than the people they serve .

  • eamoncorbett

    Certainly not one Brit , Cameron he couldnt organise a urinary functionary in a brewry.

  • Ciaran74

    Only the stupid ones…..

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m glad we cleared that up.

  • NotNowJohnny

    The British have to be involved as they were in 1921 and 1998. The transfer of sovereignty will be by international treaty after all.

  • submariner

    Chis is im afraid the economic equivalent of Forrest Gump

  • Roger

    I must admit to not being familiar with all the different economic measures. If GDP isn’t a good one, I’d happily hear of others. I open it up to others to pick any economic measure and compare IRL to UKNI by that measure. I think IRL is way ahead by any economic measure. It also seems to me to be a more progressive society than UKNI too, which isn’t insignificant. Though, no doubt, what’s progressive and what’s not could be debated endlessly.

  • Declan Doyle

    You clearly do not understand it

  • تیر پھول

    “Both those regions want to leave Spain”? Yes, indeed, the Autonomous Communities of Catalunya and Euskadi are governed by separatist coalitions, and in Catalunya the nationalist parties there essentially campaigned on the idea that the last regional election would be a de facto referendum on independence. This is not enough to state «both those regions want to leave Spain».

    As we have seen in Scotland, and twice in Québec, having a strong national identity and even a regional/provincial government of a separatist character is not the same as having the political will and popular determination for independence. Power and political representation have swung back and forth between federalists (PLQ) and nationalists (PQ) in Québec’s provincial government for years (and even, at times, the Parti Québécois has been the governing party of the Assemblée Nationale and at the Bloc Québécois has represented a majority of Québécois conscriptions in the federal parliament) and yet twice has the independence referendum been lost, similar situation with the SNP governing Scotland, now also holding the vast majority of seats in the UK Parliament, yet failed to muster.

    My point: Having a national identity, a popular independence movement or feeling, and highly electable separatist parties is not the same as a mandate for separation.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Federation of Planets stopped the Borg… Ouch

    The Leave side are the ones trying to say to their opponents “You will be assimilated, resistance is futile.”

  • Barneyt

    was I just being hopeful, but was the UUP leader using a very different tone with respect to the UI question? If Europe was important to me, as a unionist, I’d be pushing the Ireland UI issue to secure membership of Europe but more importantly to help negotiate a good deal for the british traditions in a new Ireland. If I was a moderate unionist, that would be my game.

  • Barneyt

    So the implication being that Scotland and NI represent the UK. I think Mary McAlleese made this point….which for me looks like tramping over both Irish ad Scottish asperations.

    Who will pay for NI under such an arragement…Europe? doubt it. Scotland wont foot the bill or enter into any funding formula.

    Scotland will hardly get to the point where their full independence is compromied by the attachement of the NI leech that it will surely be.

    I get the spirit of what is being said here however. If they vote out, then leave the UK ensuring NI and Scotland remain in Europe. But for reasons above it will not be entertained

  • NotNowJohnny

    My interpretation was that Nesbitt was pointing out the importance of building a Northern Ireland which was accepable to nationalists if the union is to be maintained. He was therefore stressing the importance of taking into account the views of nationalists on membership of the EU in determining NI’s negotiating position. I saw it as a warning to the DUP that they are out of touch and and that by maintaining their current position in the negotiations they risk damaging the union.

  • NotNowJohnny

    It wasn’t a serious point. But it makes you think what really is the UK?