Ireland has unexpectedly turned up to be a hurdle to the progressing Brexit talks. The Irish government said that the British were not doing enough to prevent the reinstallation of customs checks between the UK and Ireland, which could rekindle sectarian violence. The Irish leaders are worried that Brexit would have a negative impact on business relations and social ties that have deepened since the end of the Troubles – as the ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century is called.
Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, will leave the EU as well, which is a problem since Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland. The two Irish economies are inter-connected both on the economy and people’s level. There are fears that the return of the border and division could reignite the tensions. The Troubles are often referred to as a guerilla war or a low-level war and they are usually considered to have ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
To address the Brexit issue, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney proposed the British government to grant Northern Ireland a special status, similar to the one that China gave to Hong Kong upon its return from Great Britain in 1997. The UK plans to leave the EU single market and customs union, which will effectively create two economies and require the re-instatement of a border. Such a scenario would disrupt supplies and trade links since about 80% of Irish transports are transported to the UK. There are about 300 roads and more than a million of Irish people cross the border each year. Expectations are that they will be able to do so freely after Brexit as well.