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Letter from Europe / Brexit, the Irish Dream Made Real by the Tories

I've been reading the fine print in this morning's first-phase Brexit agreement between the UK and the EU. Put simply, a road map for Irish reunification has now been drawn -- which is why Dublin's reaction to the agreement has been nothing short of ecstatic.

UK prime minister Theresa May has verbally confirmed the main demand of Ulster's loyalist Democratic Union Party -- no change with regard to Northern Ireland's status as a full component in the post-Brexit UK. But the fine print unambiguously concedes that no border will be restablished between the two Irelands in terms of the movement of people, goods and capital: the defining characteristics of membership in the EU.

The sole exception would be spotchecks on travelers who are in the UK's "security risk" ledgers. The document even obligates London to take explicit legislative steps to ensure that no such border will be reestablished between Republic and Ulster, should confusion arise over implementation of the Brexit settlement.

But in practical terms, since the Republic of Ireland is an enthusiastic and very active member of the borderless EU, Brexit will have no meaning whatsoever in Northern Ireland. In short, both DUP leader Arlene Foster and May are only covering their own political backs by verbally emphasizing "no red line between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland." That's patent nonsense. The sole conceivable way to implement post-Brexit entry regulations for someone traveling to Great Britain from the EU would be a similarly fixed border between Norther Ireland and England. As for Scotland and Wales, especially Scotland -- which has benefited enormously from the EU's open borders -- they are certain to demand the same deal.

The bottom line is manifestly evident: Any proposed border between the UK and the EU is invalidated if there is no border inside the island of Ireland -- or between that island and Great Britain. Add this to the fact Protestants ceased to be a majority of the population in Ulster nearly a decade ago (2011 census: they had fallen to 48 percent of the total population) and the outcome is unmistakable.

Brexit -- a self-deluding act of suicidal English nationalism -- will realize the 900-year-old dream of a unified, independent and sovereign Ireland. We live in an age of endless ironies.

Frank Viviano © 2017

Frank Viviano is a Sicilian-American journalist and foreign correspondent.


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