Written by: Ilana Friedman
Britain is in the process of exiting the European Union (EU) through Brexit. Brexit has been a long debate for five years now. As the date gets closer for the exit, people are getting nervous about what the future holds for the United Kingdom’s economy. In 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron said he was in favor of a referendum to get the United Kingdom out of the EU. After the vote, citizens who wanted to leave won narrowly on the referendum by 51.9% to 48.1%. Two years ago, the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU. In 2017, formal negotiations on withdrawal from the EU began and has continued to the present date. On March 29, 2019, the United Kingdom is planning on exiting the EU. After constant negotiation, the main question of what will happen with Ireland always circled back to border control.
Even though Brexit is scheduled to happen on March 29th of the coming year, debates have been deadlocked and the transition period could be extended until 2021. The transition period means the United Kingdom could remain under the rules of the EU until December 2021. As a result, they would remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice until that time. For Ireland, the transition period favors their relationship with the UK. Since Ireland has made the decision to stay within the EU, it gives the two countries more time to decide how to maintain a border and civil relationship. A longer transition period would allow the EU and United Kingdom to come up with a strategic plan for maintaining a relationship in the future. This is especially important for the island of Ireland which is the country that would be most affected by Brexit.
The uncertainty of Brexit has already damaged a multitude of companies who export trade and assist the economy’s growth. The fear of Brexit alone caused the British pound to plummet in comparison to the American dollar. Many companies, including Panasonic (a household goods company in the UK), have already sought new office space in other EU countries in order to maintain the comfort of staying within the EU. Ever since the start of the Brexit debate, the United Kingdom is now the slowest growing economy. Unfortunately, postponing Brexit won’t undo any damage that has already started.
Throughout negotiations, the Irish border has remained a key issue. Ireland is the only country to share a land border with Britain. The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would become the frontier between the UK and an external country after Brexit. Currently, people and goods can travel across the border freely, which could strongly benefit the UK’s prosperity both economically and technologically; but after Brexit, there is a fear a customs checkpoint will evolve over that border. There is worry that these actions could result in a violent backlash if checkpoints are enforced. The border has become a major argument of debate. The EU wants to ensure the UK will not fall back on its position on checkpoints on the border of Northern Ireland; yet, to maintain a good relationship with the Republic of Ireland, no checkpoints is the way to go.
A current topic of debate regarding keeping Northern Ireland as part of the EU is something Prime Minister Theresa May would never accept. In June of 2018, the United Kingdom has proposed a temporary “backstop” arrangement if a new customs system is not ready or in place. In order to keep violence down and the country economically satisfied, Northern Ireland should have a say with regard to how a post-Brexit, UK should maintain a relationship with Ireland.
The Debate of Brexit has left many wondering what will happen with the relationship between the UK and Ireland. After Brexit, the border between Ireland and the UK will become a border between the UK and the EU. If all the cards are played right, this border could stay peaceful, but the only way for that to happen is if the UK agrees to abide by the requests the EU and Ireland has regarding the border.