The Irish Question

The border between Northern Ireland and the The Republic of Ireland (Eire) has been a line on a map similar to the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire for a couple of decades now. There are no barbed wire fences or sentry posts or customs check points. Movement of people and goods have been free from interference. The ‘Irish Question’ is, once again, a thorn in the side of ‘the body politic’. It is obvious why that is so, but the reason needs to be stated (even in simplistic terms).

In the 1920s, after Eire became independent, part of an agreement between the UK and the Irish Republic was that of free movement. There has never been a requirement for passports to be produced when Irish people come to England or vice versa. Irish people could find work in England and vice versa. In a sense, all the former nations of Britain were still that – British. Irish British, English British, Scottish British, Welsh British. It is not clear to what extent trade between Eire and the UK was ‘formalised’ in the sense of customs controls. This site is worth a read:

http://theconversation.com/ireland-a-century-of-trade-relations-shows-why-a-soft-border-is-so-important-88498

Frankly, I think that there was very little detailed trade control. Why should there be? The economics between Eire and the UK were not affected by the split – Irish butter and Guinness were no different after the split than they were before. No benefit would have accrued to either side by starting a trade war.

What is different now?

Not a lot, but the differences are a result of the EU, and not relations between Eire and the UK. In the lead up to Brexit, the relations between Eire and the UK are our business, and not the business of the EU. There’s the rub. Irish politicians are panicking. They want to hide behind the EU. But the UK is leaving the EU, so it does not matter what the EU, as a whole, thinks about the situation. It is for the UK and Eire to decide. Eire politicians feel powerless, and they are. What they fear is that the EU will force them to create a hard border!

But how can there be a soft border?

The answer is that there has never been a seriously hard border. It has always been the case that tourists, or pretend tourists, can enter the UK. There is nothing to stop a jihadist from entering the UK if he/she has a valid passport. There never has been. Many of us go on holiday to Spain or wherever. One could go on holiday to Spain with a valid passport from Syria with the intention of blowing the country up. What is to stop you?  I speak of the intention and not of the movement from Syria to Spain.

The simple fact is that invasions must be repulsed. But how do you know that tourists are not invaders?

You don’t, but at least they have identification of a sort.

I can understand why the Gov cannot solve the problem of illegal immigrants. They are all ‘tourists’ in the first instance. The only way is demand absolutely positive proof of citizenship, if they claim benefits. But that is not easy. “What is your name? What is your address?” Neither of which are certain to be true.

The whole situation is a mess.

Why is Africa, with its wonderful climate and untold natural resources, in such a mess?

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