Brexit is entering some make-or-break weeks. The contentious issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is coming due.
Movement on all things Brexit — be it the internal machinations of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government or direct talks with the European Union — has been glacial.
Agreements arrive incrementally, often accompanied — to quote Matthew 13:42 — amid much “wailing and gnashing of teeth” to the point that many of us want to close our ears until the next phase of Brexit is done with.
But to do so this week would have meant missing some of Britain’s constitutional crockery being banged around by those who should know better. Some hardline Brexiteers on both sides of the House of Commons have been undermining Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement (also known as the Belfast Agreement), calling it “unsustainable.” The agreement has survived the tumult of 20 years of provincial point scoring. It ended 30 years of bloodletting. But now some appear prepared to see it sacrificed at the altar of a so-called hard Brexit.
It smacks of politicking at its most dangerous — staking peace and stability as the price in a power play to hobble May. The price for giving up on the Good Friday Agreement could be steep: It would likely invoke Ireland’s wrath, cause a subsequent EU backlash and draw global opprobrium for bringing down one of the 20th century’s most successful peace agreements. It would also put wind in the sails of those who dream of a united Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s majority may still be some way from that conclusion right now, but the interventions of the hardline Brexiteers are stirring anger south of the border.
The escalation is happening for a number of reasons, chief among them the Democratic Unionist Party‘s inability to evolve. At the DUP’s core is a desire to keep Northern Ireland an inseparable part of the United Kingdom. Right now it has the power to do that: Its 10 members of the British Parliament prop up May’s government since she lost her majority in last year’s general election. Since its inception, the party has remained rooted in a past bound by traditions that it believes makes Northern Ireland British.
Read more at CNN.