Economic Challenges Posed by Brexit in Northern Ireland

Abstract

Brexit presents a major economic challenge since some agreements of the Good Friday Agreement would be reached if full border controls are instituted between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Over 30,000 workers who cross the border daily to work and study would also be affected. There are two policy options that can be applied to solve the economic problem and prevent the conflict to increase between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

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First, a frictionless border can be created which people cross quickly with the help of technological identifiers and checks. This will prevent unprecedented delays. Another option is to have Northern Ireland remain within the EU trading bloc with a special status to continue engaging in trade within the common market. UK, EU, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland should pick the policy that best meets their needs and minimizes the challenges.

Introduction:

History, Causes, and Intractability of the Conflict in Northern Ireland

For several decades, there has always been conflict or disagreement between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Majority of the Catholics have Irish origin whereas majority of the Protestants were British settlers. In 1921, Northern Ireland remained a part of the UK whereas the Irish Free State became independent as the Republic of Ireland. Since then, the Catholics have always felt that the British illegally invaded their land, hence the desire to have Northern Ireland reunite with the Republic of Ireland. On the other hand, the British settlers who have long been integrated in Northern Ireland feel safe to remain a part of the United Kingdom (McKinney, 2017, p.2).

The mistrust between the unionists and the nationalists always drive cause for conflict in Northern Ireland. From the 1970s up to 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, up to 3,500 people lost their lives in the intractable conflict. This situation means that a lasting solution is far from feasible.

Problem created by Brexit in Northern Ireland

On June 23rd 2016, the UK public voted to leave the EU. This led to the emergence of unforeseen challenges in trade operations involving Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The problem also touches on the EU. According to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the Republic of Ireland and the UK agreed to work together as partners of the EU to ensure that peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland. People who were born on Northern Ireland soil were allowed to hold both Irish and UK passports. However, departure of the UK from EU may bring challenges to that agreement if the UK elects to institute a hard border with the Republic of Ireland (Burke, 2017, p.6). Free trade relations that have existed for several decades on their Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland borders would also face some fresh challenges.

To solve the trading challenges, the parties to the conflict can take into consideration two policy options. The first option involves creation of a frictionless border where both countries can cooperate to use technological enhancements to facilitate quick clearance of people and goods at the borders. The second option is to grant Northern Ireland special status to remain a part of the European Union, hence ensuring that trade relations are not affected. The best option is to create a frictionless border since it will address the reasons why the UK decided to leave the EU.

Roadmap

This paper starts with a brief history of the conflict in Northern Ireland. It highlights the economic problem that has been created by Brexit. The policy options available to solve the problem include creation of a frictionless border or the granting of Northern Ireland a special status to continue its trading relations within the European Union despite Brexit. The most viable option is the creation of a frictionless border.

Conclusion/Recommendation

Significance of the Northern Ireland Economic Problem

Brexit will directly affect Northern Ireland’s trading capacity which totals 3 billion euros every year. Checkpoints and watchtowers would also form a barrier to the rather delicate peace process. If unchecked, it could retrigger the violence that began in the 1970s and ended up claiming over 3,500 lives. The 30,000 people that cross the border every day to work would be affected. The projects and amenities which exist on one side of the border but are used by people from either side would also be negatively affected. Freely moving horses between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would also be affected (Flanagan, 2018). The arising issues are so indispensable that if left unattended, could easily lead to violence in the territory.

Policy Options

To solve the current problem and ensure that the lives of the people remain uninterrupted, there are two policy options that can be applied. The first option is to create a frictionless border that will avoid time-consuming paperwork through the engagement of technology, risk management, and cooperation with international standards to facilitate easy clearance of goods (Eriksson, 2017, p.24). This would ensure that goods move faster as they have been moving before. This will also minimize the appearance of the elements of a hard border. The second option is to accord Northern Ireland special status within the European Union so that they remain part of the trading bloc. This would grant Northern Ireland free trade rights and ensure that the movement of the 30,000 people across the border on a daily basis is not affected (Gilmore, 2016, p.6).

The first policy option is the most feasible since there are many countries that have used smart technologies to manage their borders successfully. The second option would be difficult to monitor since the UK is likely to remain opposed to the idea of free borders.

How this Solution Promotes Resolution of the Conflict

The conflict in Northern Ireland has remained intractable because solving the nationality crisis along with the ethnic and religious differences has proved impossible for decades. However, ensuring that trade relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland continue unimpeded. This will promote resolution of the conflict because Northern Ireland dwellers will be persuaded to believe that both Irish and UK governments are still committed to their welfare through trade and free movement. It will also prevent the potential for violence in the territory.

Works Cited

  1. Burke, Edward. “Ulster’s fight, Ulster’s rights? Brexit, Northern Ireland and the threat to British- Irish relations.” Centre for European Reform, Jul 2017, pp.1-13.
  2. Eriksson, Eva. “Smart Border 2.0 Avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland for Customs control and the free movement of persons.” Directorate General for Internal Policies, November 2017, pp.1-45.
  3. Flanagan, Peter. “Why Ireland’s Border Is Brexit’s Intractable Puzzle.” Bloomberg, 23 Sep 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-23/why-ireland-s-border-is-brexit-s- intractable-puzzle-quicktake
  4. Gilmore, Andrew. “A Special Status for Northern Ireland?” Institute of International and European Affairs, Dublin, 2016, pp.1-6.
  5. McKinney, Conor, James. “The Irish border and Brexit.” Full Fact, 12 Apr 2017, https://fullfact.org/europe/eu-referendum-and-irish-border/, pp.1-4.
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