The British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) and the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker arrive at a Brexit negotiation meeting on December 4, 2017 at the European Commission in Brussels. JOHN THYS / AFP / Getty Images
A couple of hours ago, the main title of the Financial Times announced "Great Britain and Ireland agree to the Brexit border agreement". Now there is a quite different headline: "The Brexit agreement fails over the Irish border dispute." The British pound, which had jumped earlier, has now fallen from its previous highs. This is what has just happened with the Brexit negotiations in Britain, and what is likely to happen next.
The E.U. it was important for the peace agreement of Ireland
The decision of Great Britain to leave the European Union has important consequences for both the Republic of Ireland and for Northern Ireland (the part of the island of Ireland still under British rule). Decades of violence ended when Britain and Ireland negotiated a peace agreement, in which Britain agreed that Northern Ireland could join the Republic as long as the Irish wanted, and the Republic of Ireland agreed to abandon its constitutional claim to the North. 19659005] One of the key conditions for this agreement was that both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland were members of the European Union. This already allowed them to get rid of the customs posts on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It was also much easier to reach an agreement and maintain it when both countries were part of a broader political union.
This poses problems for Brexit
Now, however, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union thanks to the Brexit referendum. This raises some very difficult questions for both the United Kingdom and Ireland. In the first place, they will no longer have a shared political context, questioning the stability of the peace agreement. Second, now they have to face new questions. If the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the EU, then it will no longer automatically be part of the EU customs arrangements, and Ireland and the United Kingdom may have to reintroduce customs controls along the border. The Irish and Northern Irish economies are closely intertwined, so goods recede and cross all the time. These ties would be weakened or cut off if the border controls are reintroduced.
This is the reason why the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is one of the three key issues that the United Kingdom and the European Union must resolve in the "Phase One" negotiations. the UK exit terms, before they start negotiating any new relationship in the future. Under E.U. rules, the Republic of Ireland, like any other E.U. member state, has veto powers over any Phase One agreement, and the U.S. The president of the Council, Donald Tusk, has made it clear that other member states are not going to intimidate Ireland into accepting an agreement that goes against the interests of Ireland.
Ireland and the United Kingdom are in difficult situations
Ireland and the United Kingdom have to perform difficult balancing acts. On the one hand, Ireland urgently needs an agreement where there are no new border controls between the Republic and the North. Irish politicians fear that the reimposition of border controls would annoy Irish Republicans and further weaken the peace agreement (it is already in trouble). They also want an invisible edge for economic reasons. However, they also fear what could happen if there were no agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States. A "hard Brexit", in which the United Kingdom left the US. without an agreement on trade and economic exchange, it would seriously damage the Irish economy, since the United Kingdom is Ireland's largest trading partner.
The ideal of Ireland would be if Britain remained in the EU Customs Union, as well as in its Single Market (what guarantees that regulation does not become a barrier to trade within the EU). Otherwise, Ireland would prefer that the United Kingdom grant a special status to Northern Ireland so that it could maintain the United States. rules
The United Kingdom, on the other hand, does not want to commit to remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union. Some within the ruling Conservative Party think that this would be a bad idea, and that the United Kingdom could negotiate better for its own benefit in world markets. Others are more open to some kind of commitment to E.U. rules, but do not want to make concessions now, since they hope to link the future U.K. with E.U. concessions on issues of concern to the United Kingdom, such as immigration.
In addition, the government of the United States depends on the support of the hard-line Ulster trade unionists in the Democratic Unionist Party. While these trade unionists acknowledge a pragmatic case of continued economic ties (some of their voters are farmers dependent on the markets of the Republic of Ireland), they strongly suspect any proposal that Northern Ireland has a special status, as they fear that this can be separated. Northern Ireland farther from the rest of the United Kingdom, which makes United Ireland more likely. The conservative government fears that if they make concessions, the unionists will suspend their government by helping the Labor party win a motion of distrust in the UK parliament, perhaps allowing Labor to win the next election.
This explains the "treatment" failed
Early this morning, the governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland thought they had a deal. Both agreed on a drafting form under which there would be a "regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This was intended to facilitate continuous trade: if both parties shared similar and compatible rules, then (depending on new negotiations), customs inspections may not be necessary. However, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would continue to have parallel systems, rather than shared rules that could make the Ulster Unionists think that the two parts of Ireland were tiptoeing towards a common government.
However, the Democratic Unionist Party has made it clear that it is still extremely suspicious, and is not willing to accept this treatment. Its leader has said that Northern Ireland must leave the US. "In the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom" without any "regulatory divergence" that would separate Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain.
The result is that the proposed agreement has collapsed. While both the United Kingdom and Ireland suggest that they will continue to talk and that a new agreement will soon emerge, it is likely to only happen if one or the other part blinks. It may be that unionists are less intransigent than they appear now, and are willing to be bought with slightly modified wording and other concessions. However, if they left, they would probably face a difficult time with their voters.
The Republic of Ireland could decide that a poor border agreement is better than the risk of a difficult Brexit, but once again faces strong political pressures. It also has a minority government, which almost fell last week thanks to an unrelated scandal, and it is likely that its leaders do not want to make concessions that can be used against them in an election.
Finally, the UK government could agree (as the opposition has already suggested) to a longer term relationship for the UK as a whole with the Single Market. However, doing so will likely lead to a civil war within a Conservative Party, where different factions are already preparing for the next battle for leadership. While nobody wants a breakdown of the negotiations, it is currently difficult to see which side will be prepared to make concessions.