From Debordering to Rebordering? The Irish Border and the UK's EU Referendum

Cathal McCall

The softening of the Irish border has involved de-emphasising state sovereignty and overcoming borders as barriers to communication, mobility, and trade as embodied in the process of Europeanisation and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Border customs posts and checkpoints were removed and a cross-border institutional infrastructure created. It comprises the North South Ministerial Council, which brings together ministers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (including unionist ministers), and a number of North South Implementation Bodies. Border softening was bolstered by the eventual removal of the British border security regime located primarily in South Armagh. A soft Irish border remains an important pillar of the Irish Peace Process.Reintroducing a hard Irish border security regime to prevent the movement of unwanted 'outsiders' to the UK would be interpreted by Irish nationalists and republicans as an abrogation of terms established in the 1998 Agreement, endorsed through simultaneous referenda in the North and South, and made law in the British-Irish Agreement Act (1999). That position would likely be supported by all of the main non-unionist political parties on the island of Ireland. Yet, in the absence of de facto control over the borders of the Republic of Ireland through a 'British Isles' border security regime, it does not seem plausible that a post-referendum Conservative government could entertain the continuation of an open Irish border.

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