‘Brexit Means Brexit’: Ireland Border Issue Not a 'Tautology' - Analyst

© REUTERS / Clodagh KilcoyneBanners are displayed during a protest by Anti-Brexit campaigners, Borders Against Brexit, against Britain's vote to leave the European Union, at the border town of Carrickcarnon in Ireland October 8, 2016.
Banners are displayed during a protest by Anti-Brexit campaigners, Borders Against Brexit, against Britain's vote to leave the European Union, at the border town of Carrickcarnon in Ireland October 8, 2016. - Sputnik International
Following Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn's protest against any Brexit deal that includes a return to a hard border with Ireland, Sputnik spoke to Mick Fealty, political analyst and founding editor of the Northern Ireland-based blog Slugger O'Toole for more insights into the issue.

Sputnik: Today Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has stated that the British Labour Party will not support any Brexit deal that includes a return to a hard border. How significant is this?

Mick Fealty: This [statement] is entirely consistent with Jeremy’s views of the Northern Ireland problems which firmly shares its perspective of that of Irish Republicans, and in fact there is some truth to what he says in the sense that a united Ireland is certainly very popular in the option in the republic, where all the mainstream parties share that view. There are no significant political parties that are unionist in any shape or form.

The problem is the same now as it was at the point when the partition was come up worth in the sense that it’s not popular enough in Northern Ireland to make it happen. We know this from a MORI poll from Queens University of Belfast which shows that Unionism is still by the far most popular option in Northern Ireland.

Sputnik: Does this rule out the British Government creating a hard Irish border?

Mick Fealty: One of thing important to note about the whole Brexit conversation is the looseness of the terms being used. When Theresa May says: ‘Brexit means Brexit’, it’s a tautology.

Brexit means what it says on the tin and that’s the UK leaving the EU. That’s all we need to qualify the term Brexit. If that’s all it means and in effect the UK remains in the Single Market and the Customs Union, then not a lot will change in terms of trade. Now if that politically tenable for Theresa May, I don’t know but what I do know is that in Northern Ireland we have Democratic Unionist Party (The DUP) which was the UKIP party, the only mainstream British party that was that unambiguously in favor of Brexit.

The Brexit the need to satisfy their voters is one that creates the least amount of disruption to the problems closest to the United Kingdom that has a land border with the European Union. Even the pro-Brexit DUP need some sort of soft Brexit to get it past their voters.

Sputnik: Following the Brexit referendum, Northern Ireland as a majority to vote to remain within the European Union, with Scotland doing the same. What we’re seeing now are murmurs of a second independence referendum… Could we see a similar piece of referenda in North Ireland for a united Ireland?

Mick Fealty: The polling data does not support a decision by the secretary of state or the UK government for the calling of a border poll, which the short hand for a joint referendum of North and South, its simply not there. Even in the case of a hard Brexit, barely 53% of Catholics in Northern Ireland would vote for a united Ireland.

Those are really quite poor figures. In Scotland there is a greater possibility of it happening because the margins were so small last time round, but my suspicion is that, particularly with the rise of the conservative north of the border and the loss of ground and failure of the SNP to move forward, shows that perhaps that appetite for independence will wait until Brexit will be, not as how we think it might be, unwinds itself and we get a genuine sense of what the real outcomes are for people.

The views and opinions expressed by Mick Fealty are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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