I met pleased and gloomy people in the first half of last year when I travelled around the UK writing about the potential impact of Brexit. But by far the happiest of those I interviewed were veteran Irish republicans in Belfast, mostly present or past members of Sinn Fein, who had devoted their lives to opposing British rule.
They grasped that Brexit had made the question of the Irish border a live political issue by turning it into an international frontier. This was no longer just a 310-mile-long dividing line between the UK and the Irish Republic but the border between the UK and the EU.
Irish nationalists had been trying to interest the rest of the world in the partition of Ireland since it happened in 1921 but had failed dismally. Now the British government was self-destructively doing their work for them, significantly eroding the status of Northern Ireland as part of the UK.
Unionist fears that they would be sold out have been amply fulfilled, an outcome confirmed this week by the EU-UK government deal on the Irish Sea border, which is complicated and confusing – perhaps deliberately so ...
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