To most observers, the current impasse surrounding Brexit looks like the result of sheer incompetence on the part of the body politic in Britain. For those of us not involved in politics, it is tempting to throw one's hands up in horror and dismay, then simply give up. Certainly, in the last few weeks, perhaps longer, this is what I have done. 'Who can blame me?', I think, because no matter what the rest of us think, politicians will do as politicians please. The only problem with this strategy is that in their blundering and power-gaming, the lives of ordinary people are being affected, not least in Northern Ireland.
The Good Friday Agreement has within it a range of elements carefully crafted to ensure closer links between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as between the Republic of Ireland and Britain. One of the most tangible manifestations of this agreement is the totally frictionless travel between both jurisdictions on the island. The open border in its own right completely altered the political and social landscape.
It is no exaggeration to say that, at this point in the Brexit process, that momentous achievement is under threat. The risk of the United Kingdom leaving the EU and reverting to WTO rules is all too prominent. Of course, for some people, this would not be such a bad thing.
The world of politics is a minefield of Machiavellian agendas that the rest of us can only watch helplessly. Generally, we are not privy to the motivations of politicians, instead, having to rely on their publicly uttered words and soundbites. I’ve never really understood why the United Kingdom chose to leave the EU, although it has been clear that there was a lot of unhappiness within the UK political classes.
Given the range of things about which they were unhappy, however, it is hard indeed to see how so many issues will be resolved simply by Brexit. Nonetheless, as everyone keeps on saying, the decision is made. What is most important for me, and for (I think it is safe for me to say this) the majority of people living in Northern Ireland, is that the current links between NI and the Republic of Ireland are maintained and continue to be built upon.
The hold that the DUP currently has over the Conservative Westminster government is unseemly and has meant that the Prime Minister has had to navigate her way through incredibly difficult tensions. One only has the utterances and actions of politicians to rely on in trying to analyse what they are about.
Based on their words and actions, it is clear that the DUP will surrender almost everything in order pursue their agenda. For them, a 'No Deal' Brexit is not as bad as the backstop contained within the withdrawal. And, to be fair to them, they have won support within the Conservative Party for taking that position. This means that, right now, there is only one person who seems to be defending the Good Friday Agreement at Westminster - namely, the Prime Minister.
Most people in Northern Ireland want the Good Friday Agreement and its positive effects protected. Politicians based in Britain who are concerned about Northern Ireland should consider helping her achieve an orderly withdrawal by supporting the current Withdrawal Agreement in full in order to protect the vitally important Good Friday Agreement.