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Theresa May's Brexit speech tomorrow could break the peace process in Northern Ireland



On Friday, July 20, British Prime Minister Theresa May makes a speech at Belfast Waterfront Hall. The content of the speech has already been widely used . May announces that it is denouncing the "backstop" method negotiated by its government with the European Union under the Brexit Agreement. She will say that the proposal would violate the Belfast Agreement, which secured peace in Northern Ireland and left the people of Northern Ireland without any representation in trade negotiations. She will say, "The economic and constitutional deployment of a formal third country customs border in our own country is something I will never accept, and I believe that no British Prime Minister could ever accept it, and as you said this week, so will do not accept the lower house. "

This speech is a very big deal. The backstop is an integral part of the Brexit negotiations. It could also have serious consequences for peace in Northern Ireland. May's hostility to the defense probably does not have much to do with the constitutional principle. It is likely to be driven by politics within its own political party and the demands of the Democratic Unionist Party supporting the minority government.

Peace and borders are closely linked in Northern Ireland

In order to understand what is going on, it is first necessary to understand the role of the EU played in the Irish peace process. The joint E.U. "Customs Union" and "Internal Market" avoided the need for border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This not only allowed high integration of the two economies. It also had symbolic significance, allowing people and goods to move back and forth between the two jurisdictions, without this leading to Northern Ireland being politically united with the Republic.

Britain's decision to leave the EU. has politicized border controls that raise the question of how to reconcile the fact that the Republic of Ireland is still in the EU and under E.U. Customs and market rules, and Northern Ireland will not soon. Unionists – who want to remain part of Britain – do not want an agreement in which Northern Ireland would have separate rules from Britain. They fear that this could lead to Northern Ireland politically advancing closer to the Republic. Republicans and nationalists – and the Government of the Republic of Ireland – do not want an agreement in which Northern Ireland would have a "hard line" to the Republic. The problem is that it is difficult to avoid a hard border without special rules and status for Northern Ireland.

For this reason, the Northern Ireland border issue should be settled before the actual Brexit negotiations began. It turned out that it was impossible to reach an agreement on what should happen to Northern Ireland's status, but E.U. Negotiators and the Republic of Ireland accepted a compromise in which Britain agreed on a "backstop" agreement. The EU. and Ireland interpreted this agreement as meaning that Northern Ireland would remain in the EU's Single Market and Customs Union if no better mutually acceptable agreement could be found so that the actual negotiations could begin.

Britain moves to the backstop

19659009] Great Britain wanted to interpret the backstop engagement more flexibly than the EU It tried the E.U. to accept a deal under the UK in E.U. Customs and Market Agreements for a period of time, while sorting out its own long-term status, but not the wider obligations of E.U. Membership. The EU. made it clear that this proposal is unacceptable as it would plausibly give Britain immense freedom both in terms of the timing of its withdrawal and its interpretation of its obligations to Europe.

In addition, the pro-Brexit members of The Conservative Party, which once promised Britain would remain part of the Customs Union, now want a much "harder" Brexit than they once said. Theresa May, fearing that pro-Brexiters might split her party and perhaps force her resignation as leader, agreed last week to the terms imposed by the pro-Brexit faction. One of their concessions was an amendment to the UK Customs Act, which stated that it was unlawful for Northern Ireland "to be part of a separate customs territory with Great Britain". This meant that Britain had legally pledged to refuse implementation of the backing that the EU had already agreed to the idea.

The Last Line policy is not driven by constitutional concerns, but by the inability of Britain, the E.U. a failed agreement on customs and internal market membership, the intransigence of its own party members and the weakness of the May leadership. It is also likely that the Democratic Unionist Party, which supports the May administration, has also demanded that there be no agreement that distinguishes Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain.

This could destabilize the Brexit negotiations – and Northern Ireland [19659013] May's speech will have a significant impact on British Brexit negotiations. She presents the E.U. with a consummate fact that binds their government to a bargaining position that the E.U. has already made it clear that it will not accept. It is theoretically possible that this works to their advantage. Sometimes, as political scientists like Robert Putnam have argued, weakness can become home to strength abroad. If you are too weak, you can not implement concessions that other governments would like. The danger of weakness, however, is that you are trapped in a position that is simply unacceptable to the negotiators of other countries, so that no deal is possible. This is the big risk that may come in May. If its new demands are unacceptable to the EU, Britain will find itself in a "no deal" Brexit that could have very damaging consequences for the UK economy.

In addition, the intransigence of speech is likely to have consequences in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland's peace agreement was already in grave danger, thanks to mistrust between the major parties. May's speech is likely interpreted by nationalists as a strong signal that it is in the pocket of the Democratic Unionists party. Already, the nationalists have difficulties preventing the radicals from returning to the "armed struggle". May's speech is likely to contribute to their difficulties.


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