Border conflicts are one of the most intense problems between countries, especially if super-powerful states are involved. Historical facts show that a border is a vital part of a nation’s pride, and it indicates one territory, so it should be respected together with its laws. European states have been known for placing utmost importance on borderlines and restrictions. Any misconduct that occurs around their borders can be seen as an act of declaring war or undermining a government.
United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) board have been at loggerheads due to the Northern Ireland border’s recent laws and regulations. Initially, these two had agreed to keep the land border between the Republic of Ireland, which is under the EU’s sphere of influence, and Northern Ireland, under the UK’s sphere of influence. This was done to avoid the toil of establishing and instilling border equipment such as security and military personnel, cameras, and visa or passport checking officials [Source].
This decision was partly political, social, and economical. Keeping the border open strengthened political ties between these two parties hence low chances of having a confrontation. Also, citizens from these states would welcome each other due to the friendship between their countries. But most benefits were witnessed from the financial side of this ‘open’ interaction. An open border promotes free trading and easy access to markets in each other’s region or territories, so keeping the land border open was financially beneficial to the EU and UK.
This agreement was done when UK was still on the EU board. But when Brexit happened, which saw the exiting of the UK from the EU, a new agreement had to be made. In negotiating its safe passage out of the EU, the UK and the EU formulated the Northern Ireland protocol. This protocol was made to ensure a smooth interaction between the EU and the UK as overseers of the Republic of Ireland and Ireland. The suggestions of the protocol were put forward in 2019 and later agreed upon in December 2020 after considerations with concerned parties.
The Northern Ireland Protocol stated that they would not establish a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Also, they were going to ensure that goods to be sold in the EU’s market was of the expected standard, and the UK also had to include goods from Northern Ireland in any market that the UK would have acquired. Also, there were not going to be any border restrictions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland [Source].
However, 2021 saw disloyalty to the agreed-upon terms between UK and EU. Reports have highlighted that stiff border checking laws and regulations have affected the moving of goods to be sold in Northern Ireland. Traders coming from Great Britain have complained about the trade border, which delays them from getting their produce to the market for their customers. The profits margins are being lowered due to this, especially for those who sell perishables. Goods such as fruits, eggs, and meat are being checked at the border and ports. Inspection and checking of goods are causing the delay, and the signing of custom papers is part of the obstruction for the sellers. Small business and entrepreneurship personnel have been mostly affected by this development.
UK and EU have failed to develop a viable solution to fix the border problems [Source]. Some political analysts contend that the Northern Ireland Protocol was terrible, so it was inevitable to have such friction. Others have advised both the EU and UK to compromise and argued that it is the only solution. US president has tasked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deal with the issue quickly and ensure that peace is retained. The EU and UK should come to an understanding soon so that average trading resumes through the trade border.