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Brexit and Ulster

By Phantom On December 11th, 2019

So many unconsidered consequences have come to light, one wonders if any of the proponents of ” Brexit ” would vote for it now if they had a chance to do it over.

No consequent issue IMO is tougher than the issue of what happens to ” Ulster “, or more properly the six of the nine counties of Ulster that remain in the United Kingdom, separated by salt water from the rest of the United Kingdom.

To make a tortured story short, Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, is getting out of the EU, while the Republic of Ireland that shares the island with Northern Ireland is staying in. One of the most important features of the EU is a single market for goods and services within it. You can ship a truckload of goods from Holland to Germany without much or any paperwork, just as you would from NY to Pennsylvania. But if the UK leaves the EU and nothing else is done, you won’t necessarily be able to ship a truckload of Guinness from Dublin to Derry. A hard customs border between NI and the ROI is entirely unacceptable for multiple reasons. The apparent solution to be implemented once the UK elections are completed, is to have a kind of border in the Irish sea. Goods moving from the UK to either Ireland or to Northern Ireland will be subject customs checks.

This has angered many unionists in Northern Ireland. Some of them are angry all the time, but I digress. They see this a kind of separation of NI from the rest of the UK. It is indeed a kind of separation, but it is only that. Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK post Brexit. And the sea border could work to the advantage of the NI economy.

There is talk in Unionist circles of betrayal by PM Johnson, with no major party alternative for them to turn to, with Labour headed a hostile Corbyn.

There are mutterings of loyalist violence and or disruption once Brexit is passed if it includes an Irish Sea border.

The subject is discussed in this article from The Atlantic magazine, as first linked to by the excellent Daphne.

I think that an Irish sea invisible border is the best solution, and that there is no other decent solution. What in the world is Johnson supposed to do?

I don’t think that any disruption is justified.

Unionist concerns should be listened to. But then what?

30 Responses to “Brexit and Ulster”

  1. I don’t think Brexit is advantageous to anyone in NI including unionists. Unionists were mislead by the DUP whose pro Brexit position is bad for business and agriculture no matter whether you are unionist or nationalist.

    Boris has said there will be no checks but, once again, he is lying.

  2. NY

    I agree. I think that Ireland and N Ireland both being in the EU is economically good, and it allows for a finessing of the border’s political dimension. You have an NI that is in the UK, and you simultaneously
    have absolute freedom of movement, with many crossing the border multiple times a day, as though the border was not there.

    But Brexit is highly likely to happen, soon. What do you think is the best way to do it, now?

    Do you think that a sea border is harmful?

    I’m surprised that there has not been more talk of that sea border issue here.

  3. In reality it was always the fundamental deceit of Brexit, certainly the form of Brexit that the Conservative Party and the DUP engaged in after the referendum result. An insistence on the UK leaving the Single Market and Customs Union (creating a regulatory and customs border between the EU and the UK), an insistence that this would not result in the hardening the border between Britain and Northern Ireland, and an insistence that this would not result in the hardening the border between the north and south of Ireland. Any two of those three things are achievable. But all three can’t be achieved.

    The only way to ensure that there is no hardening of the border between the north and south is for Northern Ireland to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union. Otherwise you will have a regulatory and customs border on the island of Ireland (a border that will require some form of checks).

    The only way to ensure that there is no hardening of the border between Britain and Northern Ireland is to ensure that Britain and Northern Ireland remain part of the same customs union and single market (the UK customs union and the UK single market).

    Thus the only way to avoid the hardening of either border is for the UK as a whole to stay within the Single Market and Customs Union – which was ruled out by the UK.

    May tried to fudge the issue by having the UK leave the Single Market and Customs Union but effectively stay in it. That was rejected by Parliament.

    Boris hasn’t tried to fudge the issue. His response was to delete one of the UK’s red lines and support erecting a harder border between Northern Ireland and Britain.

  4. Seamus

    There is talk in the article and not just there about possible unrest by loyalists post Brexit.

    Not that you speak for them but would you expect any of that.

  5. I very much doubt if loyalists will carry out terrorist attacks with all the consequences of such a step purely over the issue of goods having to undergo some customs checks. I think it would take a hell of a ,Oct more than that to catalyse any return to a sustainable violent campaign by either side. The mood just isn’t there for it.

  6. Jamie Bwyson, of fwag pwotest fame, is certainly hinting at it. There are largely three different groups of loyalists (there is a fourth but they have largely left themselves to organised criminality – drugs, protection rackets etc… and haven’t really engaged in politics). They are the UDA, the UVF, and the East Belfast UVF (the fourth being the South East Antrim UDA).

    The UDA are increasingly close to the DUP and so will organise protests and rallies but I can’t see them engaging in violence. Interestingly the leader of the UDA, Jackie McDonald, announced that he’d voted Remain due to the impact Brexit would have in Northern Ireland.

    The UVF is largely led by former combatants of the Troubles who have no want to go back to it – Bunter Graham, Winkie Rea Billy Hutchinson etc… Again there will be protests, rallies etc… but I’d be surprised if there was any actual violence. These boys have been there, bought the t-shirt.

    The third group is where there is danger. The East Belfast UVF, who have pretty much completely broken off from the main UVF. Led by the likes of Bryson, Ugly Doris Matthews, they were the main group involved in violence during the flag protests. So much so that when the main leadership of the UVF ordered them to stand down they refused. Effectively, the East Belfast UVF has now become a separate loyalist paramilitary grouping which doesn’t abide by the UVF ceasefire or the peace process. They have limited ability, certainly outside of East Belfast. But they can cause some trouble.

  7. Not really speaking of terrorism

    There is talk oF strikes, blocking roads / seaports, that sort of nonsense.

    Is that likely.

  8. The ATW unionists are hereby invited to take part in this discussion.

  9. The principle distinction between an Irish sea border and the land border is that the former will have checks in secure areas. It does limit the ability to attack it. Belfast Port, Foyle Port, Warrenpoint, the airports etc… are where the physical and metaphorical infrastructure will be. So it makes attacking them harder. A land border is much harder to defend as it is 200 odd crossings (that we know about), out in the middle of nowhere (or worse right in the middle of republican towns). Defending them would have been almost impossible.

    Dissident republicans likely couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn but they could cause some ruckus trying. Dissident loyalists have even less ability.

  10. This would be a new type of border in the world, addressing a new type of issue.

    But try as I might I can’t see why some get all hepped up about it.

    Militant dissidents scare me. There should be none of them, but that is not the case.

    Seamus, what do you think of the essay?

  11. Ultimately there will be some economic harm. It will increase the administrative burdens on people trading between Britain and Northern Ireland. It may dry markets up altogether with some companies in Britain just cutting their losses and deciding it isn’t worth the extra paperwork or cost of systems just to cover the Northern Ireland market.

    But largely speaking the issue is symbolic. The economic decoupling of Northern Ireland and Britain. It makes achieving a United Ireland easier because we would simply be codifying something that already economically happens. After a decade or so of these arrangements there would be no economic shock to the system in a United Ireland.

    For Unionists, who see Northern Ireland and the Republic as separate countries, it would be like putting up trade barriers between New York and New Jersey just to make it easier to trade between New York and Canada.

  12. Seamus

    You would know this

    To what extent would NI be still subject to EU rules or influences or ways.

  13. Fully. The agreement between the UK and the EU states that Northern Ireland will remain aligned to EU single market regulation.

  14. Yes.

    It’s more properly Ulster.

    It’s Londonderry.

    Unionists are understandably jumpy, given Irish nationalist attempts to ethnically cleanse them.

    The UK is leaving the EU.

  15. These veiled threats should be put into perspective, the ‘resistance’ to the ‘Betrayal Act’ had a rally in the Ulster Hall last Friday night which was attended by, at a generous estimate, 1,000 people. That’s 1,000 out of a population of over 1,800,000.

    These people are a miniscule minority of a minority.

    The have zeroed in on the NI Protocol:


    In the hope that:

    If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist … the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures

    Which means that if they cause enough disruption through criminal acts Westminister will capitulate to their demands.

    These are an extension of the fleg protests, organised by many of the same people, perpetual shit stirrers and self declared ‘ community representatives’ andwill ultimately end the same as the flag protests – with young lads being wound up by these shit stirrers and recieving nothing for it bar a criminal record.

    They can do whatever they want in a place 400 miles away and separated by the Irish sea from where decisions are made over their head, if Johson even hears about this disruption he’ll just sit and wait for such unsustainable actions to fizzle out as they will. The trick will be for them to fizzle out causing a minimum ampount of damage / disruption/ violence.

    On the article itself, I really had a chuckle at this:

    The more toxic concern, though, is the emerging sense of powerlessness coupled with age-old existential fear and the belief that what is happening is unjust.

    Perpetual victim mode on at being left behind.

  16. It’s more properly Ulster.

    It’s Londonderry

    Wilfull obtuseness designed to provoke.

  17. Pete

    Us foreigners should not seek to provoke.

  18. Seamus, on December 11th, 2019 at 7:16 PM Said: Edit Comment

    Fully. The agreement between the UK and the EU states that Northern Ireland will remain aligned to EU single market regulation.

    I would have to think that this would give some Northern Ireland firms, in manufacturing or service fields, a tidy economic and regulatory advantage.

    For example, some of the financial services companies in London could set up facilities in Belfast and have freedom of services ability to easily sell to the EU, a thing that they could not do go forward from London

  19. This is a sketch of why the petulant can scream to their heart’s content. If there’s one consolation of Brexit it’s shown the British public how entrenched and uncompromising the most loyal of loyal loyalists are:


  20. Northern Ireland is a dead parrot to most Brits now. I doubt if the province or the concerns of either of its two main communities raise a moments thought amongst ‘mainland’ residents. That would only change if things exploded there again and I think there is next to no chance of that happening in the near future regardless of what happens with Brexit.

  21. That would only change if things exploded there again

    Disagree Colm. I think that would only change if things started exploding in Britain again and thankfully there’s no chance of that happening.

  22. Little chance

    It wouldn’t take too much skill for some moron to do something.

  23. Phantom, unless those loyalists you speak of are going to bomb London there’s no chance. The dissie malcontents will stick to Facebook, Twitter and recklessly shooting journalists dead.

    BTW, if you have fifteen minutes to spare this is a great watch:


  24. i wonder if loyalist knuckle draggers will attack crown forces ?

  25. I think that an Irish sea invisible border is the best solution, and that there is no other decent solution. What in the world is Johnson supposed to do?

    The obvious compromise after a 52:48 vote for Leave was to leave the EU, leave the Single Market and remain in the Customs Union. There would still have been problems with the Irish border, but much more manageable problems, and remaining in the CU would certainly be beneficial economically. Instead the UK will chase the end of the rainbow in the form of “free trade” deals with Trump and other protectionists in China and India. These will take years and if they are achieved they will result in the end of most British agriculture, the end of most manufacturing and probably the end of the NHS.

    And of course there is also the small matter of re-negotiating a free trade deal with the EU, which could also take years despite the present alignment. Especially if there is bad will on the EU side, which seems very likely. And as we saw with the Canada-EU deal, any single EU state can veto it. My money would be on France, as always.

  26. Paul

    That’s a good article you linked to at 8.17. But his final paragraph is wrong. There is no threat to ROI citizens’ right to vote in the UK. That is part of the Common Travel Area which dates back to 1923. UK citizens in the ROI have the same right and both governments have agreed that this will not change after Brexit:


  27. The death of a thousand cuts for the next 100 years?

  28. Brexit. The worst gift the stupid Brits awarded themselves and now look likely to open some time in the new year.

  29. ” Be careful what you wish for. ”

    There were always divisions within the UK. The prospect of Brexit has made all of them worse – England/Scotland, north England/south England, young/older people, Northern Ireland etc.

  30. Phantom

    “I would have to think that this would give some Northern Ireland firms, in manufacturing or service fields, a tidy economic and regulatory advantage.” If NI firms have basically free access to all the EU countries and also the UK, it would be a tremendous advantage. That is the way it looks right now, but nothing is really final yet. If this stays I believe there will be relocations and many start-ups in NI. It almost seems too good to be true, so I would not invest until it is finalized in law.