#Brexit would not be particularly good news for UK’s regions. But it’s not an exit visa either.

So Brexit. The Tusk negotiations aren’t over yet, but there is a broad outline for a deal that changes the UK’s relationship with the EU. Sceptics say it is not enough. Yesterday’s YouGov poll puts the figure of those who want to leave where it needs to be if the Brexit campaign is to have any chance of success: leading 45% to 34% with 19% undecided.

There are of course serious concerns at the implications for British Irish relations, and that’s even before we consider Northern Ireland. Even with the Tusk deal there’s likely to be tensions. As Suzanne Lynch notes:

…anything that would enhance Britain’s competitiveness and damage the single market will be resisted by Ireland.

On Northern Ireland we simply don’t know the fuller implications. But the DUP with barely concealed haste seem to have already rushed to man the barricades to argue for a Brexit.  Sinn Fein’s one UK MEP fired off this broadside even before the Tusk draft deal…

“We are not even on the consideration list of what happens if Brexit goes ahead.

“Theresa Villiers would not be interested in the sterling work that goes on with groups and organisations across West and North Belfast, that do their work on very small pots of money.

“What I get from her is that we make a net contribution to Europe and my response to that is I don’t give a damn. In terms of the north we are net beneficiary and the constituency I care about is my own.”

Paradoxically each may be praying that they don’t actually get the scenario they have publicly committed to. And they may not be alone in that dilemma. As the posh Tories around Cameron file in behind his pro EU position, so must the SNP in Scotland.

In fact the DUP locally and from a constituency point of view is fairly well served by taking up a position that almost no other mainstream party (ie, with more than one MP) in the UK has.  It also denies Jim Allister (or UKIP) an easy hit on them during the Assembly elections.

As for the outcome, all hyperbole aside, a Brexit is likely to have far reaching consequences for Northern Ireland, though probably not on the catastrophizing scale that’s often more hinted at more than talked about.

Freedom of movement has continued under the historic bilateral arrangements of the Common Travel Area, and it is likely to remain the framework for any future negotiations. Peace funding in any case is already slowing and would not be cut off overnight.

Brexit would probably be most felt in indirect ways (which will probably make selling its positives tough for REMAIN). Progress towards a much talked about but little acted upon all island economy may prove harder to achieve without a common overarching framework.

Would it trigger a constitutional crisis if Scotland voted REMAIN and England voted LEAVE? It would certainly be awkward. Regardless of that protest letter from the regions’ First Minister, Cameron needs a quick referendum to give his English opponents little time to get organised.

It might boost the SNP (though it’s hard to see why they really need it). But considering a growing subvention and dropping profits for those oil companies at the forefront of North Sea exploration, Cameron’s timing may mitigate against a hasty tactical strike via an #IndyRef2.

Leaving the EU does not suit anyone in the regions over much since to some degree or another they all owe their rise to political prominence to the EU’s principle of subsidiarity. And leaving the UK for what could be by then a rather unstable EU might not be uppermost on anyone’s mind.

Bloody old Etonians… Having forced the Scottish Labour party to bust itself keeping Scotland inside the UK, Cameron now has a much stronger ally there to do its level best to keep the UK inside the EU. Not least since, paradoxically, it may be Scotland’s better hope of finally gaining independence.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Discuscutter

    Schengen will be a thing of the past come June. As the the Dutch PM said it may only have weeks left.

    Given the numbers that came in to Germany in January the pressure to end it will be unavoidable this spring.

  • Discuscutter

    Britain leaving will not bring it down on its own but there are so many crises besetting it now that it is at real risk.

    Merkel has done more damage to the EU’s future in the last 7 months than every Eurosceptic in the last 20.

    Her approach on the migrant crisis will ensure that Schengen ends in the next few months. It has divided East from West, working class against the left/corporate position on it allowing space for those radically opposed to Europe to build strong positions in core EU countries.

    The EU showed an authoritarian and undemocratic side to itself in the last few years and how it handled the economic crisis.

    Ultimately its internal contradictions will kill it.

  • Gopher

    Cant help were I’m born, not much choice in the matter. Its not a privilege to wait 8 weeks on a doctors appointment, Its not a privilege to work long hours Nobody when they asked me for my vote mentioned bus lanes and 20 mph speed limits. So I’m going to use the one priviledge I have to vote for a Euro exit.. Lots of non voters have mentioned to me whilst they cant help where they are born people are starting to take the piss so they are going to enjoy sitting back and watching a Brexit after voting off course in this particular referendum. Beware the non voters!

  • Roger

    I don’t see any logic in what you’ve said here.

    “Roger, If the UK departs, then there is little reason for Ireland to remain outside Schengen and would presumably join.”

    There would indeed be a little reason: the so-called ‘Common Travel Area’, which existed before EU membership and no one has shown me any reason to suggest it would end with a UK-exit. That is why Ireland has never joined Schengen and why post UK-exit Ireland would still not join Schengen.

    Unlike Norway and Iceland, Ireland has been an EU member for over 40 years. It’s right to remain outside Schengen is secure. It’s in treaties.

  • Roger

    “…the Irish may unilaterally do the same…”
    Not really. How many visa-required nationals actually need to transit through Ireland en route to UK? Zilch.

  • Robin Keogh

    Nobody wants anything under ‘any circumstances’.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Because they may not need to doesn’t mean they do not want to. Tourists may want to visit both regions for example.

  • cu chulainn

    “Secure the border” in the Troubles meant stopping heavily armed individuals who were seeking to avoid being stopped. “Secure the border” for foot and mouth meant a trainee Garda and a guy with a sprayer, stopping people who mainly agreed with the need for being stopped. Anyone who purports to compare these is either very ignorant or deliberately stirring things.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ultimately we will all get to vote on it. Whether its five years, ten years ar twenty years away. In the build up to such a vote people will make up their minds based on the stalls laid out before them by the various parties and interested groups.
    For now it really is a non issue. Yes a brexit might speed up the process but we have yet to see full details of Camerons plan and even if he fails and Britain leaves the EU, all attention will then switch to Scotland and a possible rerun of the referendum. If England votes to leave the EU and Scotland then votes to seceed, a new dynamic will have been created and people may or may not start looking at the concept of Iirsh Unity through a different lens. In short whatever happens across the water in the UK over the next year or two will most probably serve to reshape opinion here in Ireland, whether u live in Dublin, Belfast, Cork or Derry; Ireland will be last on the list London’s priorities, and that is perfectly reasonable.

  • Robin Keogh

    Mad cow disease as far as I know does not have the human intelligence required to avoid discovery. Bad analogy.

  • cu chulainn

    Of course there is a reason for Ireland not to be in Shengen given that the British are still in the Northern part of the country. And smart alec comments about movements of people on a forum are all very well, but what you are proposing is a full scale return to the NI troubles, as the only British checkpoints possible in border areas will be the huge armoured affairs á la Aughnacloy circa 1990.

    Ireland will not be joining Schengen and will not be unduly pressurised to do so.

  • Robin Keogh

    What does Nash mean?

  • Robin Keogh

    Is it possible that Britain could actually establish such controls in GB rather than in the six counties? Would it not be easier for them to control transit between the Islands, rather than the headache of having to monitor a leaking border in Ireland?

  • I live in NI and I know quite a few people that would actually vote to leave. If a brexit happens I firmly believe it won’t happen solely on an England vote. UKIP got the second largest amount of votes in Scotland last election that says something about an anti EU sentiment, SNP won cause they are for Scotland. No idea about wales though.

  • I don’t think NI’s position will shift whatever the outcome. Here is something to think about any time I visit a supermarket near the Ireland/NI border I always see a lot of cars parked up with ROI (EU) license plates, why do they come up to NI to shop? Cause its cheaper.

  • Croiteir

    Must have been a while since you done that as the traffic is now the other way.


  • Croiteir

    Oddly enough 2/3 of the people in the south would like to see reunification n their lifetimes, Cant see what significance the birth statistics take to the party,
    If their was any chance of reunification the south could not refuse it out of self interest, besides how many countries reject territory?
    I am afraid your analysis is fantastic.

  • Croiteir

    66% wanted it in their lifetime

  • I have no idea about the status of dundalk but the only comment there is from some guy who lives there claiming that goods are still cheaper north of the border which is true.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Basically it deals with competive games and playing sub optimal hands.

    The U.K. Could introduce its own ad hoc archaic set of rules but I feel that will be in attractive to anyone else. I can point to the Tea Act as an obvious example of a lopsided set of rules failing miserably, but I guess if independence means being a selfish arrogant obnoxious jerk to the rest of the world then those who want to be that way will have to deal with the consequences.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well before the CTZ I think all people in Ireland needed passports to enter Britain.

  • Reader

    Gopher: So I’m going to use the one priviledge I have to vote for a Euro exit.
    You know there’s an Assembly election before the Euro-referendum don’t you? That would be a more appropriate opportunity to lodge a protest.

  • barnshee

    “A crime by a migrant is given higher priority than the hundreds times committed by denizens and nationals, as if being native is an excuse for leniency.”

    Quiteright we have enough local crims without importing more

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh please, what does discrimination accomplish against crime prevention. It’s just needless profiling?

    It’s like that silly Jeremy Clarkson mentality of turning a blind eye to a white elderly man who may or may not be smuggling goods through an airport to focus entirely on a person who has a burka or a dastar because you apparently can tell without evidence they’re a criminal.

    All people have equal capacity to be nutcases or criminals.

    The border-centric approach to terrorism didn’t work here, it didn’t stop Munich from happening all the terrorists have visas, it didn’t stop 9-11, it doesn’t do a jot about domestic terrorism or people leaving the place to commit acts of terrorism elsewhere.

    An Aussie style points system isn’t going to do a jot to stop terrorism.

    You have to ask why a British citizen passes the UK security so easily with the intention to commit terrorism in Syria and gets caught by the Eastern Europeans who we are told have less resources.

    Maybe they are not stuck up on migration law and more focused on law enforcement against terrorism.

  • kensei

    I know you love being contrarian, but I’ll give you a £1000 bet now that Scotland voting REMAIN and England voting LEAVE

    1. Will trigger a full scale constitutional crisis
    2. Will lead to a second Scottish indy ref – from an immediate push from the SNP

    That would be why every time a major SNP person is asked they cite the EU referendum as an exception and the cybernats are absolutely chomping for it.

  • mike

    “Handing over to George” Isnt Boris just waiting for the appropriate timing!!

  • Roger

    I think you’ve missed that we are discussing transit visas. These are not for tourists who want to visit the country that issues the transit visa. The visa does not permit them to visit the country. It merely permits them to land at the airport and make their way to the departure gate for their next flight. They never pass Immigration. Tourists don’t ever want to do this, but to get to Ireland the the optimal route often involves a UK transit. There are many places that have no direct flights to Ireland. The reverse is just about never the case. Tourists don’t need to ever transit through Ireland to get to the UK.

  • NMS

    Roger, Connectivity between Ireland and the rest of Europe is considerably different now & forty years ago. One no longer needs to travel via London to go anywhere.

    The great choice for Ireland post any UK withdrawal, would be integration into the European Union or to meekly follow the UK out. UKNI is a side show. Economic links with the UK are important, but perhaps overstated because of entrepôt activity.

  • NMS

    You are looking at it from a UKNI perspective, with all due respect, the position of Northern Ireland, post any decision by the UK to depart will be a sideshow.

    The stark choices facing Ireland post a UK decision to depart will be to completely integrate into the EU, or to follow the UK out. Anyone assuming that there will be little change, is fooling themselves. Joining Schengen would be a minor part of the integration process, the UK-Ireland relationship would be changed utterly by departure.

    If the UK votes to depart, then Aughnacloy will be part of the EU’s external border and there will be Customs officials and all of the normal bureaucratic trappings on the road to Emyvale. No smart alecism involved, just a straightforward statement of fact.

    Mr. Cameron has walked the UK into a minefield, particularly UKNI. It was clear from the questions put to him last week by both Margaret Ritchie & Mark Durkan, that the position of Northern Ireland was news to him, until Enda Kenny gave him a paper explaining the issues. Residents of Northern Ireland should be questioning what the NIO, DUP & Sinn Féin were up to for the last year, because no one bar the SDLP in the North seems to have raised the problems likely to arise for UKNI if the vote is to leave.

    All parts of the relationship will be open for discussion, the box would have to be opened, Schrödinger’s Ireland, and the cat would be found dead.

  • Tochais Siorai

    What’s UKNI?

  • Tochais Siorai

    Scotland can’t leave Britain. Physically impossible.

    More than likely they’ll leave the UK at some stage though.

  • Tochais Siorai

    As it stands, England may vote NO so narrowly that a resounding Scottish (and Welsh) YES could be the difference in keeping the UK in the EU.
    Wonder will many Scot Nats vote NO in order to trigger a Brexit and thus IndyRef 2?

  • Roger

    Don’t agree with that for a second. I don’t think many analysts would go along with you on, although needless to say you are entitled to hold your opinino.
    Ireland has a land border with UKNI. Keeping that open is more important than the (at the present time diminishing) value of Schengen, which would pertain to states with which Ireland does not have a land border.

  • Roger

    United Kingdom, Northern Ireland region

  • Ryan Hamilton

    Firstly, don’t really understand the parallels between NI and Singapore. Secondly, you wouldn’t want NI to end up like Singapore? A crime free, multi-cultural, economic powerhouse with world class education and unsurpassed opportunities. Sure, the late Mr. Lee kuan Yew may have wept when Singapore left Malaya but history knows who that break up has benefited in the long term. I say this as NI expat living in Singapore, (not really as much career opportunities in that lovely place UKNI).

  • Roger

    Each to their own and I respect your preference about living in a low crime, multi cultural crowded city with 6 m people in a tiny space. I prefer UKNI and its green pastures, Antrim coast and the like. In fairness to UKNI though, isn’t it a multi-cultural place too? But I’ve never been to SGP so don’t know exactly what I’m comparing it to on that front. Was in KL once. Nice city. Would still prefer UKNI or indeed IRL. I do love the former Ireland, both jurisdictions now in it.

    The only reason Singapore came up was because the chap I replied to said he’d rather NI was like SGP etc.

    Agreed about there not being enough career ops. though. I can certainly relate to that.

  • Bobbell

    For me being pro-union with England, Scotland and Wales within the EU is very different from being pro-union with England and Wales outside the EU.