Chapter 23: The Irish border as sign and source of British-Irish tensions
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Next is the collective chapter by Hayward, Leary and Komarova on the the Irish border, an empirical topic that is of great importance and likely to reveal much for the future. It shows the challenges of managing the Irish border after Brexit, the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union centred on a campaign to ‘take back control’ of its borders. This objective was largely assumed to mean controls on the movement of people through British sea and airports. The movement of goods and services across the UK’s 500km land border with the EU was given scant consideration. Two and a half years on, it has proven to be the most complicated challenge for the Brexit process – and one that creates an incredibly complex case for future border management. The border that partitions Northern Ireland from the rest of the island of Ireland has been contested since it was drawn (as a ‘temporary measure’) almost a century ago. Whilst unionists have seen it as a vital means of preserving British culture and rule in Northern Ireland, Irish nationalists detest it as a lingering manifestation of British colonialism. This is a result of two key processes that fundamentally changed the relationship between the UK and Ireland. First, the peace process built on the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and, secondly, their common membership of the EU. In fact, the benefits of free movement of goods and services through the UK and Ireland’s common membership of the EU’s customs union and single market really couldn’t be properly felt in the Irish border region until the peace process bore fruit. Apart from showing the big macro picture and the historical context in depth they also incorporate the micro community level with the Pettigo case study.

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