Northern Ireland - The Union Jack is still flapping

It is not just the rampaging and pillaging young men in Belfast, Derry, Newtonabbey or other cities who are fueling the conflict between Unionists and Republicans in Northern Ireland. The collateral damage caused by Brexit is primarily responsible for chaotic conditions that threaten to get out of control. It doesn't take long to find reasons. The special rules that have been in force since the beginning of the year are noticeably thinning the flow of goods into the former civil war region. Supermarkets can no longer fill their shelves because delivery companies are dropping out due to excessive bureaucracy. These consequences of Brexit are downright disastrous in the Northern Irish minefield. More than three months after Britain's irrevocable exit from the EU, the economic consequences of the exit are hitting people and businesses alike. What turns out to be the downside of the agreed special status for Northern Ireland, which has de facto remained part of the EU trading area, in order to prevent goods controls at the border with EU member Ireland. Since there are also trade requirements for England, Scotland and Wales because they are no longer part of the European internal market, this naturally affects the transfer of goods to Northern Ireland. There is no silver bullet for the “smallest common evil” for all involved.

Under these circumstances, the Protestant community loyal to Great Britain - about 41 percent of the Northern Irish population according to church membership - fears that the region will be decoupled and slowly but steadily drift towards Ireland, especially since the Catholics leaning towards the Republic in the south will soon be in the majority could.

The Larne Ferry Terminal on Northern Ireland's east coast offers object lessons about the challenges the British state is currently facing. The Union Jack is still fluttering proudly and at half mast over the Victoria Orange Hall, the community center not far from the piers, because of the death of Prince Philip. Ships dock, trucks roll down the ramp, there seems to be the usual hustle and bustle, but the impression is deceptive, here too there are riots by angry young people at night.

On the streets of Larne, opinions are divided as to whether there is indeed a maritime border with England, Scotland and Wales. Ivy and Sandy, two ladies out for their afternoon stroll, can't find a bad vibe in town. They believe tensions are easing over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) seeks to abolish because it crosses the Irish Sea. The pensioner Joseph, in his late 60s, is concerned. There is graffiti everywhere that make no secret of the fact that one has been betrayed. “They didn't sell us a dog, they sold us puppies. We were told we should vote for Brexit. We would definitely stay part of the UK, but we are no longer part of the UK. How can we be when there is hardly any food imported from Scotland? ”And how could anyone claim that there was no border in the Irish Sea when companies had to fill out 80 pages of paper to ship their goods to Northern Ireland send?

Foreigners in their own country

Ian paisley jr. Boris Johnson of the DUP bluntly says: “The Northern Ireland Protocol has betrayed us. We now have the feeling of being foreigners in our own country. ”He asked the Prime Minister:“ If necessary, will you pass laws to remove the barriers to trade in Northern Ireland? Will you keep your word and allow businessmen in my constituency to dispose of the totally useless business papers that you said we could dispose of? Prime Minister, be the unionist we need. "

Stephen Kelly, Managing Director of Manufacturing Northern Ireland (NI), which represents a number of companies in Northern Ireland, believes that Brexit will inevitably lead to a “major historical divide”. “Everything in Northern Ireland has always been viewed through an identity filter. Unionism is fundamentally against the protocol because it means Northern Ireland will be separated from the rest of the UK, while Irish nationalism has never been fundamentally against Brexit. "

From the ranks of the Northern Irish security forces, it is said that great leadership is necessary to repair the damage caused by the Article 16 botch of the Brussels Commission in the Brexit agreement. The EU has always insisted on its moral superiority and asserted that it will do everything it can to protect the Good Friday Agreement - "and then they go and pull Article 16, which blows everything up".

The April 1998 accord granted Northern Ireland extensive autonomy by giving the Regional Assembly in Dublin legislative and executive authority in areas previously administered by the Northern Ireland Department in London. At the same time, a North-South Council of Ministers should take care of relations with the Republic of Ireland. The treaty did not make Northern Ireland the ward of the United Kingdom forever, nor did it have to forever be the prodigal son of the republic in the south. This relativized its constitutional claim to the province in the north and declared that its status should depend on the will of the majority of the population there. It was clear that the balancing of opposing interests, which was regulated by contract, must not be unduly shaken. The consequences of Brexit, of course, do just that, for historical reasons they are politically charged on the Irish island like nowhere else in Great Britain.

The increase in bureaucracy, customs controls and additional costs for the movement of goods with the EU came as a surprise to many. Northern Irish farmers have been unable to export cattle to the continent since January 1st. Fresh fish can hardly be sold in the EU either, although the fishing associations have been assured that Brexit will be their salvation after decades of decline. The fashion industry fears drastic slumps due to VAT and other difficulties. Due to problems with work permits and visas, bands can no longer plan tours to EU countries as soon as this is possible again after Corona.

Alarming numbers are being presented everywhere. According to a survey by the British Association for Road Haulage (RHA), exports to the EU plummeted 2021 percent in the first quarter of 68 compared to the same period last year. RHA managing director Richard Burnett is "absolutely frustrated". The association had warned of such drastic losses throughout the past year, but was not heard by the Johnson administration.

Hundreds of British companies are currently being forced to relocate to the EU in order to continue to benefit from the common market. Some have stopped all exports to the EU. Some EU states lure British providers with special financial incentives. NI CEO Stephen Kelly believes that trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland has only recently revived because exporters choose the route through Northern Ireland to deliver goods to the Republic of Ireland, whose imports from the UK are said to have fallen by 60 percent . Northern Irish companies are increasingly relying on local sources of supply or on deliveries from countries other than Great Britain. “The position of Great Britain as a distribution center for the Irish territories will be extremely weakened by Brexit. People are looking for new ways, many producers here are now relying on direct imports from continental Europe, ”says Kelly.

From the words of the managing director of a small British company that had to stop all exports to the EU, confused perplexity speaks: "We expected difficulties, but the problems everywhere that Brexit is causing us and so many others are virtually endless."

Lisa O'Carroll is the Brexit correspondent for Guardian, Toby Helm is a columnist for Observer