Sorry, Jen. I din't mean to derail...just to agree that I don't understand the motivation of some voters and the surprise they claim when circumstances end up not in their favor.
I don't know a lot about Brexit, most of my info is from Jaime Oliver in a amusing half hour story. But, it sure sounds like a mess, especially on the Irish border.
That's ok, hun. It's made for a fascinating read. But yes, we do appear to have had a bit of thread drift.
I'll clarify as briefly as I can on the Irish Border situation, but it's an extremely complex situation so even the Brexit-For-Dummies version may be a bit of a read.... and it probably still won't make sense then.
The Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland after nearly 40 years of Republican terrorism (and 3000+ deaths) brought great political change to the province. It's too complicated to summarise briefly here, but one of the central points is that even though Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic (ROI) are two separate sovereign territories, they would be treated as one to all everyday intents and purposes. There would be freedom of movement, trade, employment and all the old sectarian divides that discriminated against Catholics in the north would be swept away by a re-organised Parliament in Stormont that gave Catholic and Protestant, Republican and Unionist an equal voice.
Sounds like a good thing, yeah...?
The open border policy was facilitated by both Britain and the Republic both being in the European Union which meant ease of trade, movement of people, etc wasn't hampered by any other international trading regulations.
When Britain leaves the EU and begins trading under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), we will have to comply with WTO rules. These immediately come into conflict with EU rules and will require a hard border to be set up to control movement of people, trade tariffs being imposed and customs duties being collected.
This isn't the EU being bolshy.... And it isn't negotiable. It's a question of "rules are rules" which neither side is obliged to, or has given any indication that they intend to, budge on.
A closed border is completely unacceptable to people both in NI and ROI. That is, as far as they are concerned, a complete and utter no-no. It would also be a contravention of the Good Friday Agreement which is a legally binding international treaty between Britain and the Republic of Ireland. It's unthinkable that Britain could renege on that. The international ramifications are.... well, unthinkable.
Republicans have already said they wouldn't tolerate it and it could even - worst case scenario - lead to a resumption of terrorism which of course, nobody wants. More likely would be a border poll that would probably result in Northern Ireland uniting with the Republic. And with Scotland looking increasingly likely to have another independence referendum in the next five years, the breakup of the United Kingdom is all but certain.
Think of the southern states intention to leave the union in the 1860's and you'll have some idea of what is at stake here.
The nub of the issue here is that all the time Britain is in the EU there are no barriers to an open border (pun intended), but as soon as Britain begins trading under WTO rules, the various regulations and rules kick in and border controls become mandatory. Not optional.
I can't emphasise enough how strong the depth of feeling about this is in Ireland. It really is a line in the sand that neither side will cross. Both NI and ROI agree on this if nothing else. No hard border. End of.
This was brought up during the referendum campaign and all fears voiced by Remain were pooh-pooh'd as "Project Fear." It would be easy to resolve, they said. We'll have a technological resolution which will make it easy for trade to criss-cross the border seamlessly.
Another answer was that the EU will simply waive their rules because "Britain holds all the cards in negotiations," and "They need us more than we need them so they will concede to our interests."
To the first response, the technology the Brexiters airly referred to doesn't exist and would probably take at least ten years to develop and implement to the satisfaction of both the EU and WTO. And both sides have already said they won't accept it anyway.
The second argument has been wiped out by events. The EU doesn't need us more than we need them and they have palpably wiped the floor with Britain in negotiations. The British government has been out-thought, out-manoeuvered out-negotiated and run ragged at every stage.
A third option has emerged and that is the "Irish Backstop." Of course, it was an EU suggestion that May inserted into her Chequers Plan and Brexiters therefore dismissed it immediately as having come directly from Satan's bottom.
The "Backstop" is a plan whereby Northern Ireland remains in the EU Customs Union for an indefinite period and an invisible border down the Irish Sea between NI and mainland Britain is established.
This would allow the NI/ROI border to remain as it is, and control of movement of people, collection of customs duties, etc would take place at mainland UK points of entry. This would remain in place only for as long as it takes for an agreement to be thrashed out between Britain, the EU and WTO that would be acceptable to both Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Into this equation comes the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. Simply put, they will not tolerate NI remaining in the Customs Union. Nor will they tolerate the invisible border down the Irish Sea. This is because they feel they would be "separated" from being a part of Britain.
The Conservative government can't ignore the DUP for one simple reason..... May screwed up by holding the 2017 general election.
By the summer of 2017 it was already obvious that Brexit was going badly and was losing public and Parliamentary support as the truth about what Brexit really meant began to emerge. She felt she didn't have the sort of majority needed in Parliament to get her "red lines" (don't even get me started on those) through the negotiations.
Thinking that all the opinion polls were in her favour she called the election*.... it was an epic fail. The Conservatives lost dozens of seats. They lost what majority they had and actually became a minority government.
May came to an arrangement with the DUP. NI would get £1 billion of taxpayers money (Yep, using taxpayers money as a bribe to benefit the Tory party) and the DUP would deliver their 10 votes in Parliament which would give her a majority. But only just.
It gave May a majority, but an extremely fragile one that held her hostage to her backbenchers. Just a couple of rebel backbenchers could scupper anything she tried to do.
Another twist to all this though, is that a number of opposition MP's support the backstop and a number of government MP's oppose the backstop. This muddies the water as far as numbers are concerned. It's extremely difficult to say which way this or that vote on anything will go.
It's become a numbers game where the party whips twist arms and entrenched self-interest groups such as Jacob Rees-Mogg's European Research Group (ERG) hold the government to ransom on just about everything. The ERG are extreme right-wing, hardl ine, No-Deal Brexiters. They own Theresa May. She has been quite craven in her appeasement of the ERG. They have her in their pocket.
The DUP rejected the backstop plan and have done so resolutely throughout the negotiations. Without DUP agreement the ERG will go against the government on everything, which would make the country ungovernable therefore the backstop is a dead duck and therefore there can be no resolution to the Irish border problem.
Rees-Mogg has recently made some comments that suggest the ERG line is softening but nobody trusts him and there is great suspicion about what he's getting up to behind the scenes.
A hard border seems inevitable without some miracle that isn't even visible as a speck on the far horizon let alone in place by 29 March.
* Two years into a five year fixed term Parliament. Funny isn't it, how calling another election to suit their own interests is "democracy" but giving the people a say on an issue that will affect their lives, once the full facts about what is going to happen have emerged, would be "Anti-democratic".