Why Is a Compromise So Elusive?
The Achilles’ heel of a Brexit deal is the border between Ireland, a member of the European Union, and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. For years, this border was militarized because of sectarian violence that left more than 3,500 people dead. But with the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, free trade was allowed.
This was possible because Ireland and the United Kingdom were members of the European Union. But when Britain voted to leave, the Irish border again became an issue. Reintroducing customs controls would pose many problems.
Mrs. May’s draft agreement proposes keeping Northern Ireland, and the rest of the United Kingdom, in a European customs union until a trade plan that does not require checks at Ireland’s border is ready — so perhaps indefinitely. But this means Britain would also still be subject to some of the bloc’s trading rules and regulations.
In short, while paying a $50 billion divorce bill, Britain would remain bound by many European Union rules without any say in the making of them. This infuriates the hard-line Brexit crowd, who say it would leave Britain as a “vassal state.”