Brexit stumbles over Irish dilemma

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Brexit.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: That’s a blast from the past!

EICHER: Right? The pandemic has wiped just about every other global concern from the headlines in the last six months. That does not mean that untying Great Britain from the European Union stopped. It’s been an ongoing process.

REICHARD: Well, Brexit is again making headlines, and American politicians are weighing in. Here’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

PELOSI: We have been very clear in saying to the United Kingdom, if you do if you do harm to the Good Friday Accords in your Brexit arrangements, do not count on any bilateral U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.

So what’s all the fuss about? Joining us to explain is Glen Duerr [DO-ER]. He’s an international studies professor at Cedarville University, a Christian college in Cedarville, Ohio. And he specializes in secessionism and nationalism.

Good morning, professor!

GLEN DUERR, GUEST: Good morning!

REICHARD: Brexit made headlines and stirred up all sorts of consternation. But that was pre-pandemic. So please refresh us on what that was about and catch us up to where things stand now.

DUERR: Yeah, absolutely. So, the UK was a long-term member of the European Union from 1973 until 2020, but in the lead up there was a real debate within the country over sovereignty, immigration, housing prices, all of those things were mixed into the Brexit debate. And, ultimately, a referendum was held on June 23rd, 2016. It was certainly a surprise in many circles because 51.9 percent of the British voters voted to leave the European Union. And to further complicate matters, it was voters in England and Wales that said, “Yes, we want to leave.” 55 percent of voters in northern Ireland said no. 63 percent in Scotland said no. And we’ve seen the resignation of two prime ministers—David Cameron and Theresa May—and now Boris Johnson, it took him an election in 2019 to get fully out of the European Union.

REICHARD: British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited Washington earlier this month to reassure U.S. lawmakers about a proposed change in the agreement that would affect Northern Ireland. What is going on there?

DUERR: Well, it’s a very complex issue because it goes back to the time of the troubles—roughly 1968 to 1998 where there was real sectarian violence, Catholic/Protestant violence within northern Ireland, such that roughly 3,500 people died in everyday life as a result of it over the 30 year period. But there are a number of political agreements. Most notable is the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and that really helped to pacify an awful lot and open the door to a Northern Irish assembly, such that politics was able to move through with a lot more compromise between the two groups within Northern Ireland. It also—under the European Union—it allowed for an open border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, which has really, again, helped to bolster trade and cooperation and peace. But now that the UK is outside of the European Union and the Republic of Ireland is still inside of it, technically the EU needs to have a border between the two, which gets us back to the time of the troubles. And so both the British, Irish, and EU governments have worked, really, to try to find a solution. They found a good one, but the UK recently reneged upon part of that because of an issue regarding the internal market and that’s really the big sticking point is how much the government can get involved in Northern Ireland and whether or not they’re abiding by the withdrawal agreement. 

REICHARD: What do you see as a feasible solution to that?

DUERR: I think it’s probably a watered down version of the current legislation, the internal market bill. I think in order to best cooperate and compete, British companies need some latitude and so hence the need for the internal market bill. But I also think the UK has got to be careful in terms of stacking the deck, which would run counter to what it said under the European Union. So, I really think watering it down, and also finding compromises on key issues as well. There’s still a number out there that haven’t been resolved. Access to fishing waters could be part of the deal. Access to medicines, law enforcement, pensions, a number of these areas have not been cleared up yet and they have another three months until the end of this year to do that. And at the end of the day, the European Union has been best noted for its compromise. It’s been a union of six countries to 28, down to 27 now. And it’s always figured out ways of solving very complex issues. This is another one and so I think there’s some posturing on both sides right now. But we’ll have to see how the European Union responds. And they could respond in a range of different ways and it could encompass these other areas that I mentioned—medicine, fishing, pensions, etcetera—that would be part of a wider compromise.

REICHARD: Glen Duerr is a professor at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. Thanks so much for joining us today!

DUERR: Thank you so much for having me.

(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, FILE) In this file photo dated Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, Brexit supporters hold British and US flags during a rally in London.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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