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Brexit vs. the Irish Question

Brexiteers have given no serious thought to what withdrawal from the European Union will mean for Northern Ireland and its relationship with Great Britain. If they had, they would have known that there is no way to bring twenty-first-century reality into line with their nineteenth-century delusions of grandeur.

LONDON – On Brexit day – March 29, 2019 – the HMS Buccaneer Britannia will set sail in search of the riches of the “Anglosphere.” But there is a hitch: Someone has forgotten to raise the anchor, which remains planted firmly in Ireland.

This isn’t surprising. Of all the Euroskeptic Conservative politicians I know, not one has ever mentioned Northern Ireland, let alone the sovereign country to the south of it. The only thing on the Brexiteers’ minds is the quest for parliamentary sovereignty and liberation from the supranational “superstate” in Brussels.

This blinkered view may simply reflect ignorance. Even an erstwhile “Remainer” like Karen Bradley, the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, recently confessed that, “[…] when I started this job, I didn’t understand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted issues that there are in Northern Ireland.” In other words, until very recently, she has been incurious about one of the central issues of nineteenth- and twentieth-century British history.

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