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.