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Irish border, entangled in questions of identity



The land around the small Irish town of Carrickcarnan is the place where Britain's plan to leave the European Union leads directly into a wall – an invisible one that proves insurmountable.

Somehow, a sort of border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the EU Member, Ireland, customs controls on goods, products and livestock must be introduced as soon as the United Kingdom has completely left the block.

That means largely unencumbered and invisible The Irish land border will be the border between the EU and the UK – raising angry questions about trade and customs controls.

Of all the sensitive issues in the Brexit negotiations, this was the hardest, because the challenge of keeping trade smooth is deeply rooted in identity issues: what it means to come from Northern Ireland.

Northern Irish Catholic and Protestant communities remain decades apart after 30 years of confirmation Dictator demanded around 3,700 lives. The peace agreement signed in 1

998 gives people the freedom to identify themselves as Irish or British or both. It helped break down Northern Ireland's once heavily controlled and militarized border with Ireland – and the last thing people want now is a new one.

"The peace process has taken politics's identity and limitations, and Brexit has beaten them back in the middle," lamented Conir Houston, the Northern Irish business and strategy consultant.

Talks between EU leaders and British Prime Minister Theresa May hit the Irish border this week, trying to find ways to reach a summit Wednesday

The border between Northern Ireland and Ireland zigzags everywhere the map. It cuts real estate, turns over roads and dodges villages. People cross it when they leave the house to visit their doctor or go shopping. It is usually only visible when the speed signs change from miles to miles.

The dividing line spans 500 kilometers and is littered with 250 official crossroads, more than on the entire eastern flank of Europe.

A A good example of the Brexit problem is the Jonesborough Parish Church. A padlock secures the gate of this rundown Protestant temple in the UK. An Irish flag flies over the border in the cemetery next door. In the parking lot is a weathered sign saying "No EU border in Ireland".

Not so long ago 12 fortified watchtowers, 4 helicopter bases, a handful of barracks and police stations were in the country within 10 years – Mile (16 kilometers) radius

Border Post stood for authority and made easy targets for paramilitaries. So the police came to guard the customs officers. Then the army was called to protect the police.

Some believe that modern technology – drones and cameras – can defeat old hostilities. Others suggest that they are used for target practice.

"For some, this is seen as monitoring and relapsing into trouble, and then you need to decide how to protect those drones and cameras," said Peter Sheridan, a retired senior police officer with 32 years of experience in managing organized crime.

Yet, Sheridan says, politicians should not give in to threats.

"We can not be pressurized by those who lead the biggest cudgel," he said.

About 65 kilometers (40 miles) north, in the Northern Irish capital of Belfast, the barriers are much more visible. In many places, the districts are still separated by high, decorated with graffiti "peace walls". Schools are mostly separated.

The area has the highest levels of poverty, suicide and unemployment in the UK – and there are fears that Brexit could exacerbate the situation.

"The tensions are not to be underestimated and absolutely consistent" In parts of Belfast, said Angila Chada of Springboard, a group that works with unemployed Protestant and Catholic youth.

Not all bad news. Trade, especially in the agricultural and food sectors, has doubled in the last 20 years and the Northern Ireland economy has steadily improved. But even in the best Brexit scenario, Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium states that there will be "a significant new administrative burden."

More controls on goods that cross the border mean more paperwork. That means delays and delays cause costs.

"There is very little scope for business." These costs are passed on to the consumer, Connolly told reporters during a visit to Northern Ireland organized by the Irish government. "It's literally death by a thousand cuts, food prices will rise, fuel will rise, shirt on back."

Creating a "hard line" – something that all parties want to avoid – would make things worse

On average, commercial vehicles cross the border 13,000 times a day. In the future, around 3,000 loads a day will have to be stopped with beef, lamb, pork, poultry, egg or dairy products. Each inspection would take about 10 minutes, said Seamus Leheny of the Freight Transport Association

"We would be paralyzed here at the border," he said.

Whether customs and other controls could be carried out outside the border – at airports, ports, factories or markets – remains to be seen.

In the coming weeks, EU officials and the British and Irish governments must develop a policy that guarantees that goods can be controlled without stifling the economy. Above all, the Irish Brexit border plan must respect the unique identities of the people of Northern Ireland and not ignite tensions, as many fear.


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