Well. Now it’s been said out loud. The thought that has haunted Irish nationalists and republicans since the Brits first announced that they were going to leave the EU. Worst of all, these out-loud words came from the lips of the European commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas. When asked at a press briefing about the impact of a no-deal situation on Ireland, he said “You will have a hard border.”
This, of course, is directly contrary to what Michel Barnier and others have been insisting for months: the backstop had been agreed between the EU and the UK, and that back-stop, guaranteeing no hard border, must stay in place.
There are two reactions you could have to this. One is to feel that the EU, when it comes to the crunch, are willing to toss Ireland under the steam-roller if they believe that is in the interests of the EU. Ireland north and south is a piddling little country compared to Britain with its 60 million people or the EU with its 500 million. So fine words, then, but in reality betrayal.
Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, who had been verging on political canonisation for their insistence on the backstop and their success in getting the EU four-square behind them, are naturally more than a little upset over this utterance from the EU. Coveney says the south’s government simply won’t accept the “re-emergence of border infrastructure on this island”. Varadkar has said that if there was a no-deal situation, the Brits, the southern government and the EU “would have to negotiate an agreement on customs and regulations that would mean full alignment so there would be no hard border”.
Unfortunately, full alignment is the one thing the DUP will not agree to, which means Theresa May won’t agree either.
Should the British exit with no deal from the EU, there would immediately be all sorts of problems, mainly but not exclusively the rupturing of trade between the north and south of Ireland. There would be the risk of civil disorder, and the people who planted that bomb in Derry the other night would be rubbing their hands as a new and highly visible target was set in place. Yes, Virginia, I am talking about border infestructure.
From this potential clusterfuck I can pluck just two consolations: the British people will rapidly see what an asinine idea Brexit was and seek to reverse it; and the pressure for a border poll will rapidly build to the point where it’d be irresistible.