09:29 GMT23 January 2021
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    A lack of compromise between the UK and Irish Governments over the Northern Irish border could potentially turn the region into a "hole in the fence," according to a professor from Ulster University in Belfast.

    While it was increasingly possible that the UK could crash out of the EU with no agreement in place over the issue, the details of putting up a frontier between the UK and the Irish Republic with regular checks would be equally fraught with difficulty, essentially leading to a 'no deal and no border' situation, Duncan Morrow, Professor of Applied Social and Policy Science, told Sputnik. 

    "There would be no real border put up and no real agreement in practice because the implementation will be extremely difficult, so you could potentially have a hole in the fence between the EU and Britain, it could become a lawless space," he said.

    Professor Morrow opined that the UK could use the complications of erecting a hard border as leverage in the negotiations, knowing the difficulties in implementing such a system. However he noted that the entire process is creating a crisis of confidence Britain's institutions as the Good Friday Agreement, through which Northern Ireland is governed, would be severely weakened.

    "It would certainly mean that governing Northern Ireland becomes much more difficult. You've undermined the political process and therefore opened yourself up to a very uncertain future."

    'Ways to Get Around Borders'

    Britain's International Trade Secretary and 'Hard Brexit' advocate Liam Fox said on November 27 that the border dispute could not be resolved until a UK-EU trade agreement is finalized, while Brussels has insisted that London has just days to settle the issue before the trade talks could proceed.

    Professor Roger MacGinty of the University of Manchester's Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute pointed out that a "lawless" border region would not necessarily be unprecedented given the recent history of Ireland.

    "People always find ways to get around borders, particularly borders that don't make any sense. People along the border are used to crossing it several times a day. They simply will not tolerate going back to the bad old days of long queues at military checkpoints. During the Troubles communities made their own roads that by-passed the official border," he said.

    The Irish Government has repeatedly threatened to veto any UK-EU trade agreement without assurances that a 'hard border' with Northern Ireland is off the table. Britain, meanwhile, has ruled out Northern Ireland remaining within the Single Market and the Customs Union, along with any measures that would lessen its sovereignty over the country.

    Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives at the EU summit meeting in Brussels, Belgium, October 19, 2017.
    © REUTERS / Eric Vidal
    Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives at the EU summit meeting in Brussels, Belgium, October 19, 2017.

    Early Irish Election?

    Professor Morrow also explained that the possibility of an early Irish election would pressure Irish parties to take a harder line on the negotiations at their most crucial stage.

    "Politicians have to take positions to win the election, that is always difficult," he said.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    Northern Ireland peace process, UK, Brexit, Ireland, Brexit, European Union, Liam Fox, EU, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Ireland
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