What should the UK do with Northern Ireland when it has become the centre for conflict in the Brexit backdrop?


What should the UK government do when faced with the challenge of Northern Ireland? When Brexit referendum results were announced, the public, and many politicians, didn’t take notice of the potential problem Ireland could cause. Now, as we hopefully come to the final chapter of Brexit, what should Britain do?

The problem that the government and our editors face is an extremely challenging one. Conflict in Northern Ireland is not an unfamiliar headline. Conflict between Unionists (mainly Protestants) who want to remain part of the United Kingdom and Irish Nationalists (mainly Catholics) who wanted to re-join Ireland plagued most of the 20th century, finally ending in 1997 with Good Friday Agreement.

However, Brexit has caused this problem to rise again. In fact, a new terrorist group, branded the ‘New IRA’ is starting to rise in Ireland, reaching the front page after the tragic death of Lyra McKee, in which ‘The New IRA admitted carrying out the murder.’

This is due to the threat of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. At the moment trade and people can cross unobstructed. However, with certain proposals this could change due to Ireland remaining and Northern Ireland leaving with us.

At the moment what is in place is called the backstop. ‘The backstop is an insurance policy contained in the withdrawal agreement negotiated between Mrs May and the EU to avoid a hard border.’ For two years after Brexit, negotiations would take place between the EU and UK to try and come up and implement the best possible solution to the border question. This time would will also allow for the appropriate technology to be produced.

The backstop itself seems a sensible plan, but Boris Johnson has decided to challenge it, by saying that he ‘would remove the need for a Northern Irish backstop.’ Now his plans have met stiff resistance, with EU refusing to accept his demands, Ireland protesting his plans of ‘an all-Ireland zone for checks on most goods’ and even US congress saying ‘Any future US-UK trade deal would almost certainly be blocked by the US Congress if Brexit affects the Irish border and jeopardises peace in Northern Ireland’ according to the Guardian.

On the flip side, many MP’s in Parliament do not want to see a back stop as it will ‘trap the UK in the EU customs union.’

This is our topic this week at POI, and our editors will now try to put forward their solution over what to do with the Irish Border Crisis.

Written by Liberal writer, Max Anderson

Even with limited options we must have faith in Boris – a Conservative article

With the coronation of Boris Johnson completed earlier this summer he has now embarked on his crusade to lead us out of the EU. However, the Prime Minister has been thwarted in his endeavours by having to deal with the issue of Northern Ireland and the backstop. This issue of the backstop has already destroyed the premiership of one Prime Minister and its complexity is not exactly helping Mrs May’s successor. So what can the Prime minister do to stop his own death by backstop?

Before we get into the main detail for those who are are unsure or who are bored of the backstop debate, here is a refresher. The backstop is a measure in the withdrawal agreement, which is designed to ensure that “there are no border posts, physical barriers or checks on people or goods crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.” Critics like our Prime Minister look at this and will argue that Northern Ireland is being treated differently to the rest of the UK which damages the existence of our four nations. This is why he has called to remove it from the withdrawal agreement.

So, what is the plan? From my research It seems that Boris Johnson options are severely limited due to him ruling out the Northern Ireland backstop. The strongest and emerging option is that the United Kingdom would talk to the EU about “all-Ireland issues.” One of these issues is farming and agriculture and what Boris Johnson is proposing is that on these issues if they are treated as part of an “all-Ireland economy based on EU rules,” then this will ensure that there are “no health checks on produce passing over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.”

According to the Financial Times this moves shows that the government is moving towards treating “Northern Ireland differently to mainland Britain in a post-Brexit world.” The Prime Minister is hoping that this move will help springboard the EU and the UK into talks which allow it to find common ground without having to use the backstop. However, Brussels is far from convinced by this plan due to them being already content with the backstop already in place within the Withdrawal agreement. On the issues on checks, tariffs and enforcing laws, “Mrs. May’s withdrawal agreement provided a comprehensive solution to all of this: the backstop.” The EU argue that “by keeping Northern Ireland closely aligned to EU rules, and empowering the European Court of Justice to enforce them, the need disappears for checks on the Irish border.”

Writing this article on the issue of Northern Ireland has been the trickiest I have attempted while being an editor at Point of Information. The complexity of the issue is staggering and it has become a political minefield for anyone who dares to attempt to solve it. Therefore, I must commend the government for the vigor and gusto for trying to the resolve the issue of a backstop that could potentially leave us trapped by EU laws and regulations. So when it comes to answering the question set this week I can not give clear concrete answers. However, I have much faith that this government will find a deal and its idea of all-Ireland issues is a start. However, where does it goes from here, it is clear that only Boris knows.

Written by Jack Kane, Conservative Writer 

Point of information

The panic is palpable – the Conservatives and their supporters truly have no clue what to do – a Labour response

Whatever kingly ambitions Mr Kane has for Prime Minister Johnson, the rest of the country isn’t fooled. Being asked to have faith in such a charlatan when so much is at stake is a slap in the face of reason. The Conservatives and their supporters are clearly treading water here; note Mr Kane’s omission of Boris’s bridge idea – evidently too embarrassing to repeat.

Also, according to Mr Kane, the PM opposes the backstop as “Northern Ireland is being treated differently to the rest of the UK”, yet seems to suggest that treating Northern Ireland differently from the UK is becoming the government’s official stance! Paradoxes and contradictions have become ubiquitous under a Conservative administration. If Mr Kane thinks his party can solve this Catch 22 he is sorely mistaken.

I commend Mr Kane for not claiming to have every answer in this situation, but in this case an answer is needed, and needed fast. The fate of the country is at stake, and Boris Johnson is the man we should trust? God help us.

Written by Isabella Jewell, Labour Writer

No straight answer as we have come to expect from Boris Johnson and Jack Kane – a Liberal response

I feel this week’s response to Mr Kane will be an easy one. He simply provides no answer to the back stop and proceeds to tell us what is going on rather than give a solution.

The only attempt he makes is to suggest Boris Johnson’s proposals to effectively keep Northern Ireland in the customs unions for some goods such as agriculture. Even this is a poor solution even if it is a ‘springboard’ to further negotiations which the EU have already ruled out.

Mr Kane seems hesitant about the backstop yet has no other solution. We can tell he has found this article difficult and I respect him for saying so. However, Mr Kane, modesty is not the solution for this crisis and I hope you are able to provide some thought other than following Boris Johnson to disaster.

Written by Max Anderson, Liberal Writer

Why would we get rid of the backstop? – a Liberal article

That is an easy question to answer. MP’s are worried that it ‘traps the UK in the EU customs union’. These MP’s want a hard Brexit and although I disagree with them, that is their belief. The key word in that sentence is I disagree with them. I hope the EU can trap us in the customs union and so do Liberals. We want a free border and peace in the region and that to me is the most important thing. So how do we proceed?

Firstly, we must accept the backstop. It is an insurance plan If we can’t agree a better plan as it is there to keep peace in the region. But at the end of the day it is an insurance plan. What is the best we can get during this negotiation plan? It depends on the Brexit deal we decide. Luckily, I have a few plans to help cover all basis.

The easiest way for this to go is a close deal with the EU, agreeing to free trade, freedom of movement and all the other benefits. That is what I personally want, not only because I think the benefits listed above will help this country, but because the Irish border crisis becomes a bad dream, keeping the free border which, they already have.

The current deal between Theresa May and the EU, is the basis for Johnson’s current negotiation. Technically, the UK ‘insists this does not bind the British government to a customs union’ whilst ‘British access to European markets will depend on the UK respecting EU standards on competition, tax, environment, as well as social and employment protection.’

The initial idea with Northern Ireland is that it would remain in the customs union while the rest of the UK does not, although it effectively is on paper depending on negotiations before the backstop deadline. You can see the confusion.

In this case and a No-deal case, or effectively anything requiring a hard border, I find a solution. Although it does come with its problems, at this rate it might just be the best thing.

Freedom of movement and labour is something that must be expected. I know immigration is a whole other debate, but whether or not you believe it, immigration helps a country. It should be kept therefore, allowing a free border and helping the country economically. For example, from health tourism, the NHS made ‘£346 million that year’ in 2017/18 which isn’t including ‘health surcharge as part of their visa process’.

I get off topic, but the solution can be found in Malaysia. Their open tolls roads have ‘with the use of an on-board Smart TAG.’ If this system is implemented onto the Irish boarder, vehicles pre-register what they are transporting and the goods destination. Then when they cross the border, the tag is registered with a small charge. The government is able to record where the products are being delivered and thus, ensuring the correct tariffs are implemented for the British public to pay. Random checks can be done behind the border if needed to ensure imports are under the correct laws. Of course, this isn’t perfect, and will have problems and relies on people’s honesty.

I know this isn’t the most effective solution, and there are some holes with it. However, if you want a Brexit that keeps us out of the customs union, this might be the best thing by default. I would much rather remain in the EU, and that is my suggestion in order to keep peace in Northern Ireland. Therefore, you have a choice. Plain and simple now you understand the best plan – stay in the EU (or in the customs union) or deal with this solution because it is the best you’re going to get without risking civil war in Ireland.

Written by Max Anderson, Liberal Writer

Point of information

A valiant effort to solve the crisis, but the people’s wishes must not be waylayed – a Labour response.

I applaud Mr Anderson for some solid research into practical solutions, unlike his conservative counterpart’s blind faith in the government, but he seems to have forgotten the result of the referendum.

Most people who voted in the 2016 referendum wanted to leave the EU. This is a fact that must be respected, or at the very least acknowledged. Remaining in the customs union and allowing freedom of movement are the two core requirements of being a member of the EU. By pursuing the softest of Brexits Mr Anderson pleases neither hardcore Remainers who want a second referendum, or virtually any Brexiteer.

This complete disconnect from the wishes of the people is symptomatic of the wealthy liberal elite. By actively trying to subvert democracy and carry on as if everything is the same, Mr Anderson is playing a game in which no one wins.

Written by Isabella Jewell, Labour Writer

Mr Anderson’s crusade against respecting the 2016 vote has begun – a Conservative response

I am truly staggered by Mr Anderson’s short-sightedness on the issue this week, he claims to be a liberal, he could not be further from the truth.

Firstly, Mr Anderson writes “I hope the EU can trap us in the customs union and so do Liberals.” But what about the 17 million voters who voted to leave the EU? The British public voted comprehensively to leave the EU in 2016 to get away from their entrapment, yet he wants us to be trapped and locked up. Furthermore, I think he is the only liberal who wants this capture and I will get on to this issue later.

Mr Anderson says “the easiest way for this to go is a close deal with the EU, agreeing to free trade, freedom of movement and all the other benefits. That is what I personally want.” What has described is why we joined the EU in the first place. It is clear that he personally want us to stay in the EU. So what about the 17 million voters that wanted to leave your utopia?

Liberalism is the idea of enhancing the freedoms and rights of human being which is something that I think Mr Anderson has strayed away from this week. In 2016, the UK government granted a referendum on the issue of our EU membership which gave the people their democratic right to vote. On the issue of Northern Ireland Mr Anderson is denying the rights of those 17 million who voted to leave the EU.

Written by Jack Kane, Conservative Writer

Johnson’s head is in the clouds – we need Corbyn’s realism to see this through – a Labour article

After years of floundering and prevaricating, of political chaos and excruciating inaction, one thing has become quite clear; the idea of Brexit wasn’t very well thought through. It was a nice concept on paper, but extracting a union of four nations from an institution like the EU after decades of entrenchment is about as straightforward as blindfolded brain surgery. The look of quiet horror on Boris Johnson’s face after the referendum in 2016 said it all. Even those who campaigned for leaving the EU knew they were selling a pipe dream.

The bitter cherry on top of this non-existent cake is the situation in Northern Ireland. The unique social/historical/religious/political/diplomatic situation is held in a delicate balance by the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and the impending threat of Brexit will preserve that stability about as well as a hurricane preserves a house of cards.

So, how can the UK leave the European Union without potentially reigniting The Troubles? The answer may be painful to hear, but it must be said. What is needed is a slow, stage by stage withdrawal led by a Prime Minister who holds one ideal above all others: Compromise.

There is no quick and easy fix-all solution to this debacle. Johnson is scrambling for another pie in the sky idea to magically whisk away reality, pushing the mythical technological solution, or, even more ridiculously, proposing to build a bridge across the Irish Sea.  

The fact of the matter is, at the present moment, any form of withdrawal from the customs union or the single market will lead to some form of border being established in Northern Ireland. It is inescapable.  

The last thing Britain needs right now is a PM who is deluding himself and the country with dangerous fantasies. It would be catastrophic for him to lead us over the cliff edge with a no deal Brexit, something almost guaranteed to cause disquiet on the Irish border, let alone the severe economic consequences and general chaos.

We need a leader who is willing to pull up their sleeves and get to work untangling the intertwined bureaucracies of the UK and the EU. Someone who is willing to approach Brussels with an attitude of compromise and goodwill. We know that the EU doesn’t want violence to erupt in Northern Ireland again, so we need someone who will ask for an extension to the negotiating period and collaborate with their fellow Europeans to find a solution for the good of both the UK and the Republic of Ireland. I believe that Jeremy Corbyn has the grit, tenacity, compassion and patriotic spirit for the job.

Written by Max Ingleby, Labour Writer

Point of information

A good and interesting insight from Mr Ingleby… until the last sentence – a Liberal response

I am glad to see Mr Ingleby return this week to the Sunday’s debate as he always brings a fresh and interesting new take to situations, however, this week he pronounces the same standard response to Brexit as Labour always do.

Even still, it is not a flawed article until his final statement. “I believe that Jeremy Corbyn has the grit tenacity, compassion and patriotic spirit for the job” is something I never thought I would hear, even from Mr Ingleby. Mr Corbyn’s lack of motivation to respond to Brexit situations should show this.

There is also a lack of an answer. It is all pretty words here and no solution. It is nice to say we should work with the EU which I agree on but to what? That is where I believe Mr Ingleby has stumbled.

I love to read Mr Ingleby’s articles but I fear too much time alone writing Thursday Thought Piece has perhaps but him in too much of a comfortable environment.

Written by Max Anderson, Liberal Writer

Welcome back Mr Ingleby, still delusional I see – a Conservative response 

It has been truly lovely to have Mr Ingleby back this week as it has served a great reminder to me of how pessimistic Labour is. Mr Ingleby wants more delay and dither and believes that Mr Corbyn is the man to save Brexit. It is good to have you back sir.

Mr Ingleby has made a glaring mistake. He writes “at the present moment, any form of withdrawal from the customs union or the single market will lead to some form of border being established in Northern Ireland.” This is not true. The idea of all Ireland issues means that there would be no borders checks. This can be evidently seen on the issue of farming and agriculture where if we pursue a policy of all Ireland issues, then there would be no health checks.

 Mr Ingleby goes on to mention the idea of a bridge connecting Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is vital that a government assess all options and it is clear from recent debate and expert advice that the idea should not be so poorly thought of. You must not rush to anti-conservative policy just because you are Labour. Follow the line what you say your leader is good at, compromise.

Finally, Mr Ingleby last line really made me chuckle. “I believe that Jeremy Corbyn has the grit, tenacity, compassion and patriotic spirit for the job.” How can one truly believe this? He has flip-flopped on the issue of Brexit countless times and his plan is quite frankly pathetic. It is over-complicated and it simply will not work.

Written by Jack Kane, Conservative Writer

Max Anderson
Publisher/Founder at Point Of Information | Website

I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.

Isabella Jewell
Labour political writer at Point Of Information | Website

I have just finished my second year at The University of Manchester studying French and Italian and am about to leave the Northern Powerhouse for a year abroad.

Jack Kane
Conservative political writer at Point Of Information | Website

Hello, my name is Jack Kane and I am third year undergraduate at the University of Exeter. I am a studying Politics and will graduate Exeter in the summer of 2020. I have been interested and engaged in Politics since a very young age.

Leave a Reply