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‘An absolute shambles’: readers on the Irish border and Brexit

20 November 2017, The Guardian.

Ireland has said it will block progress of Brexit negotiations in December, unless the UK give a formal written guarantee there will be no hard border with Northern Ireland.

We asked our readers living in Northern Ireland and the Republic what they made of the state of Brexit negotiations, how concerned they are about the lack of progress, and what they thought should be done about the border question.

‘Britain is dragging us with them’

Britain is heading towards a hard Brexit and dragging us with them. Only two solutions possible to avoid a hard border: the north stays in the customs union and single market, or a united Ireland. If Britain frustrates our appeal on the former, then they must give us a vote on the latter.
Conor Heaney, 37, Derry

‘A lot of people my age are ready to protest if any visible border is erected’

I can’t really believe there won’t be a visible frictionless border, as much as I want it. I want the situation to be resolved peacefully. The emotion it creates, the thought of a check point: I don’t want there to be violence, but there will be protest. We are still suffering a hangover from The Troubles and that physical border will be a heartbreaking reminder of the past.

I have noticed an increase in the price of food over recent months. This can be quite difficult because I am paid in euros. A lot of people my age are ready to protest if any visible border is erected – we will set up camp on the border and you will have to drive over us.

Noelle, 28, Northern Irish citizen working in the Republic Of Ireland

‘No thought was given to what leaving the EU actually means’

It’s an absolute shambles. No thought was given to what leaving the EU actually means for trade and movement of people. The actions of the DUP in propping up the Tory government will do them and their supporters harm in the long run.

The border has to be moved to the Irish Sea. NI should remain part of the customs union and the single market no matter what the island of Britain does. It is the only practical solution for trade and the only one that preserves the Good Friday Agreement. The unionists will hate this but they have brought it on themselves by backing and campaigning for leave.

There are opportunities in any crisis. I think NI has the opportunity to serve as a bridge between Britain and the EU – a kind of free trade zone half in, half out of the UK.

John McAuley, 40, Belfast

‘The English are winging it’

The English are “winging it” with no idea of what they are doing. The fact that a small group of people headed by Theresa May can make such far-reaching decisions affecting my children and grandchildren’s future is almost surreal.

It is as if we are an afterthought and confirms what many have believed for a long time; we are truly second-class citizens.

Martin, 68, Belfast

‘Remain MPs must find their courage’

They have no solution to the border issue because they know there can only be a hard border, like before.

Mick Collier, 58, Galway

‘I feel angry our hard-won peace is being jeopardised’

I have no idea how the border question can be resolved and I doubt anybody does including the British ministers negotiating it. The only people I now trust to put our case are the Irish government.

I feel very angry that our hard won peace is being jeopardised by people who have no real understanding of our delicately balanced political arrangements here.

Janet Rice, 63, Belfast

‘It’s mind-boggling that the British establishment don’t get this’

For peace, stability and economic progress the North must remain in the Customs Union or something similar. Otherwise, chaos. If we go back to a border we potentially open up wounds that have barely healed. It is mind-boggling that the British establishment don’t get this.

Michael Harnett, Dublin

‘The British don’t want us and the Republic can’t afford us’

The British haven’t a clue about Brexit even after all this time Their complete lack of concern for and knowledge of Northern Ireland (which, we are constantly told is as British as Yorkshire) and its unique circumstances is jaw dropping. A second British-imposed border on the island of Ireland is totally unacceptable. It can only be resolved with the North having full membership of the EU as before: in short, a united Ireland.

As I work on the border, I buy my car fuel in the Republic because it’s cheaper. After Brexit, am I going to be stopped, have my car searched and made to show receipts or be accused of smuggling? And if so, who will stop me? The British army? British Customs and Excise?

The Irish authorities should refuse to pay for any border controls: after all, it’s Britain who is leaving. They must pay the full amount for any new border controls if these are ever reinstalled. The British don’t want us and the Republic can’t afford us, so accept with extreme caution any honeyed words from Boris and his Irish counterpart.

John Austin, 52, Northern Ireland

The Guardian