Friday, March 8, 2019

Brexit in Ireland

As my readers know I am ambivalent about the EU, which I consider an elite system designed to thwart democracy, and thus I can understand why some British people voted for Leave. Except for one thing: the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Peace has been achieved in Ireland partly by the effective erasure of that border, allowing Irish people to cross back and forth whenever they feel like. Brexit will put an end to that, and it might lead to a return of violence to Erin:
The most important of these risks can be swiftly spelled out. Focus is often placed on the sheer difficulty of policing the 310-mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because there are at least 300 major and minor crossing points. But the real problem is not geographic or military but political and demographic because almost all the border runs through country where Catholics greatly outnumber Protestants. The Catholics will not accept, and are in a position to prevent, a hard border unless it is defended permanently by several thousand British troops in fortified positions.

The threat to peace is often seen as coming from dissident Republicans, a small and fragmented band with little support, who might shoot a policeman or a customs’ official. But this is not the greatest danger, or at least not yet, because it is much more likely that spontaneous but sustained protests would prevent any attempt to recreate an international frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic that wasn’t backed by overwhelming armed force.

It is unrealistic to the point of absurdity to imagine that technical means on the border could substitute for customs personnel because cameras and other devices would be immediately destroyed by local people. A new border would have to be manned by customs officials, but these would not go there unless they were protected by police and the police could not operate without British Army protection. Protesters would be killed or injured and we would spiral back into violence.

We are not looking at a worst-case scenario but an inevitability if a hard border returns as it will, if there is a full Brexit. The EU could never agree to a deal – and would be signing its own death warrant if it did – in which the customs union and the single market have a large unguarded hole in their tariff and regulatory walls.
Maybe things aren't that bad, but to have embarked on Brexit without some plan for handing the fragile situation in Ireland was very, very foolish.


G. Verloren said...

Maybe things aren't that bad, but to have embarked on Brexit without some plan for handing the fragile situation in Ireland was very, very foolish.

Everything about Brexit is foolish, but that's the danger of a Democracy where the general public isn't sufficiently educated, rational, and wise; and where unscrupulous individuals and organizations are allowed to lie constantly, and to exploit and prey upon innocent people for their own benefit.

Western democracy is struggling across the globe because the masses aren't being properly equipped to engage in particaptory governance, and because the system has become rife with corruption and has been co-opted for the purpose of enriching and empowering the unscrupulous, as opposed to actually governing well.

We need to remove money and power from politics, and we need to eliminate incompetance from our voters. How, exactly, will surely be argued over, but the fact remains that our biggest problems are corruption and incompetance. That needs to change.

David said...

While the EU has some non-democratic features, it's also true that Brexit passed in Britain by a very close margin, and it's not clear it would pass again on a second vote. So the EU also has substantial democratic support. Indeed, given the starkness and depth of the issues involved, could one not describe Brexit itself as the tyranny of the bare majority?

What I'm most impressed by is that, as in our country, the divisions can't really be cast accurately as elite vs. demotic, or democracy vs. anti-democracy. Rather, they deeply divide the democracy itself, along lines that are not readily--maybe not at all--susceptible to compromise.