Brexit warning signs from Northern Ireland must not be ignored – Brian Wilson

The enigma of Northern Ireland within Brexit is almost incapable of resolution which is why it should have featured far more prominently in the 2016 referendum.

A Loyalist paramilitary mural pictured in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in January (Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
A Loyalist paramilitary mural pictured in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in January (Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

In the end, to get a Brexit deal stitched up, a “protocol” effectively placed the trade border in the Irish Sea, avoiding border posts within the island which nobody wanted and would certainly have been blown up.

Problem solved? Not at all. From the unionist perspective, the deal did more to facilitate Irish unification than anything previously, by creating a single Irish entity for trade purposes.

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This week, the UK government unilaterally breached the protocol to delay introduction of additional bureaucracy and costs between the two islands. The EU and Dublin reacted with fury.

To them, it looks like the UK pretending that it has not, of its own volition, created the problem of a border between the two islands that did not hitherto exist.

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Just another diplomatic row to be smoothed over? One hopes so. But the great British mistake in the past has been to ignore what is going on in the Northern Irish undergrowth until it turns into something much worse.

This week, the Loyalties Communities Council of paramiltary organisations informed UK and Irish Governments that they have withdrawn their support for the 1998 Belfast Agreement which ended decades of violence.

The Loyalist paramilitaries say their stance will continue until the protocol is amended to ensure “unfettered access for goods, services and citizens throughout the United Kingdom”.

Since that is impossible under Brexit, what happens next? I hope greater minds than Lord Frost’s are concentrated on how to pre-empt a dangerous folly.

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