The current conflict centers on Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. that shares a land border with an EU member — Ireland. While Britain was part of the EU’s vast free trade single market, there were no barriers to people and goods crossing that border. The open frontier helped underpin the peace process that ended decades of Catholic-Protestant violence in Northern Ireland because if allowed the people there, whatever their identity, to feel at home in both Ireland and the U.K.
And yet the quarrels go on: The U.K. and the EU of now 27 nations are once again trading accusations and insults as they try to resolve rough spots in their relationship. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? By taking the U.K. out of the EU’s economic order, Brexit creating new barriers and checks on trade. Both Britain and the EU agreed such checks could not take place on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border because of the risk to the peace process.
EntertainmentWilliam Shatner, TV’s Capt. Kirk, blasts into spaceFilm TV workers union says strike to start next week’Squid Game’ strikes nerve in debt-ridden South KoreaTrisha Yearwood on making jerky, bacon straws and wontons The alternative was putting a customs border in the Irish Sea — between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. But the new sea border has brought headaches and red tape for businesses, and has riled Northern Ireland’s Protestant unionists, who say it weakens Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and threatens their British identity.
WHY IS UK-EU CONFLICT ERUPTING NOW? Problems have been piling up since the U.K. left the EU’s economic embrace, including the bloc’s single market, at the end of 2020. Under the divorce agreement, the British government was required to impose customs checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. It has repeatedly postponed introducing them, to the annoyance of the EU.
Specific problems have emerged around agricultural and food products — most prominently a looming ban on chilled meat products entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. that spurred headlines about a “sausage war.” Opposition from Northern Ireland unionists to the deal has hardened. Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, said Tuesday that “if it is not replaced, then it will condemn Northern Ireland to further harm and instability.” Anger over the new arrangements helped fuel several nights of violence in Northern Ireland in April, largely in Protestant areas, that saw youths hurl bricks, fireworks and petrol bombs at police.
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