August 21, 2019
The economy would be damaged, at home and abroad.
Brexit Will Be A Gift To Dissident Republicans In Northern Ireland
It will be a logistical quagmire.
Supply chains would be massively disrupted, from food to vital medicines. 
In the commentary on the possibilities of a no-deal Brexit, there are plenty of warnings of upheaval and imminent catastrophe. But there hasn’t been nearly as much discussion, in specific terms, about the threat posed to Northern Ireland’s peace process, and the possible return of political violence. 
This is regrettable since, simply put, leaving without a deal poses a clear and present risks to Northern Ireland, which doesn’t appear to be at the front of Westminster’s mind.A hard border would cause anxiety to a wide section of Northern Ireland’s nationalist community which, coupled with economic chaos, could create the perfect conditions for dissident Republicans to recruit from even more disaffected and angry local communities.Let’s take the possible end of the open border. The current arrangement has innumerable logistical benefits – not only do 33% of Northern Ireland’s exports take place across that border, but thousands of people live on one side and work in the other.
Right now, a GP can see patients and carry medicines across its length, and sick people can be transported to the nearest provider, no matter which country that sits in.
That could stop immediately in a no-deal Brexit. 
Logistics like this are important. Economic and political disenfranchisement are key drivers in the current swell of political violence in Northern Ireland. Local violence feeds on the poverty and hopelessness that has been the norm in Northern Ireland for too long.
Groups like Saoradh and the so-called New IRA are still small, but have been able to create unrest in those parts of Northern Ireland which have seen little economic improvement since the Good Friday Agreement, and would suffer badly from the economic and political consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
Derry, which witnessed the murder of journalist Lyra McKee by the New IRA this spring, has an average annual income of £15,000 and ranks 57 out of 57 cities in PWC’s Cities Growth report. Fermanagh, which experienced a border-side explosion this week, has a youth unemployment rate of 32%. Both are border counties, and both offer a bleak outlook for the same cohort of young people that dissident republicans have typically recruited.
It’s important to remember that averting a no-deal Brexit is not itself a rallying cry for dissident republicans, since they reject parliamentary politics and moreover view any measure by Britain – whether no-deal, withdrawal agreement or remaining in the EU – as entirely illegitimate.
It’s more fruitful to view the anxiety that a hard border would cause to a wider section of Northern Ireland’s nationalist community which, coupled with economic chaos, could create the perfect conditions for them to recruit from even more disaffected and angry local communities.If a hard border is erected, it will immediately put back in place a physical, legal and psychological barrier that has been steadily eroded over the past two decades.And this anger is not merely about the economy. The current peace process rests partly on cross-border pacts secured under the Good Friday Agreement, especially those buttressed by the EU’s policy of free movement. 
These gave Northern Irish nationalists a greater sense of their own self-determination by removing any physical structures separating the two countries, and easing their ability to work, travel, live and own property on either side.
This all but erased most everyday distinctions between Irish-identifying Northern Irish citizens and their countrymen in the Republic of Ireland. And all of those distinctions risk coming back as a result of a no-deal.
If a hard border is erected, it will immediately put back in place a physical, legal and psychological barrier that has been steadily eroded over the past two decades.
There are 300 miles of border in Northern Ireland, and despite assurances in the press from Brexiteers, there has still has not been a convincing explanation of how its length could be simultaneously frictionless and compliant with international obligations in the event of a no-deal, not least considering Johnson’s hardline stance on free movement.
Irish people have a pre-existing common travel area which should, technically, spare them from the draconian migration bans being proposed, but how does someone separate an Irish person crossing that border from a Frenchman or a Polish person?
Either you deliver an entirely open border that breaks every promise of the UK government’s immigration policy, or checks must be enacted. It is these checks, wherever they are imposed, which could massively hinder the rights of Northern Irish nationalists, undoing the rewards of the past two decades, and serve as an incalculable gift for dissident republicans throughout Northern Ireland. If the aim was to present the British as unthinking, unfeeling, and indifferent to Northern Irish nationalists’ rights, then the imposition of a no-deal Brexit would make it much, much harder to challenge that accusation.
Séamas O’Reilly is a writer from Derry. His first book, Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?, is due to be published next year.Related... Donald Tusk Rejects Boris Johnson's Call To Scrap The Backstop Boris Johnson’s Brexit Backstop Face-Off Risks Everything For Nothing
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