Does anyone still totally support Brexit?

Great Britain: "Brexit will be a nightmare for Northern Ireland"


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Martina Anderson is a member of the European Parliament for Northern Ireland in the Irish Republican party Sinn Féin. The primary goal of her party is the reunification of Ireland. In the north, Sinn Féin has been the strongest political force for years, despite being accused of being the political arm of the terrorist organization IRA. As a young woman, Anderson was a member of the IRA herself. It was opened in 1986 because of planning bomb attacks Sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released after 13 years under the Good Friday Agreement.

ZEIT ONLINE: Ms. Anderson, what do you think of the deal that Great Britain and the EU agreed on for Brexit?

Martina Anderson: It is good that the agreement avoids a hard border in Ireland. But the fact remains that the people of Northern Ireland did not vote for Brexit. You voted in the referendum three years ago to stay in the EU. The Good Friday Agreement also states that any change to the constitution in Northern Ireland must be confirmed by a referendum. And this is the biggest change that can be imagined since the partition of Ireland almost 100 years ago. Nevertheless, this Brexit agreement is still better than an exit without any agreement.

ZEIT ONLINE: So does Boris Johnson's deal violate the Good Friday Agreement?

Anderson: The whole of Brexit is completely incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement. While this deal ensures that there will be no physical limit, it will still harm us. After all, we are losing all rights as EU citizens, so the deal only limits the damage. The Northern Ireland regional parliament's approval mechanism is also chaotic, ugly and very complicated. In any case, the regional assembly has just been suspended for more than a year because of corruption allegations against the Northern Irish DUP.

ZEIT ONLINE: If the British Parliament approves the agreement on Saturday, it will apply from November 1st. What does this mean for Northern Ireland?

Anderson: There is now a huge amount of uncertainty, especially for companies. The economy in Northern Ireland actually supported the backstop, i.e. the transitional arrangement for Northern Ireland, which would have changed little about the status quo. This is now a Full stop become a kind of emergency stop.

ZEIT ONLINE: And what follows from that?

Anderson: Companies will be faced with two different systems. With the internal market and the customs union of the EU on one side and with all the new duties and taxes on the British side. Brexit will be a nightmare for Northern Ireland. It will be very challenging, if not impossible, for companies to adopt the new regulations for the movement of goods within a short period of time. There is also the problem that we will no longer be politically represented in the EU here in Brussels from November 1st. We will no longer have any MEPs who can stand up for precisely these issues.

ZEIT ONLINE: Conversely, there are fears in Brussels that the internal market could be undermined precisely because of this confusion in Northern Ireland. How do you see it

Anderson: We kept pointing out that the border in Ireland is nearly 500 kilometers long. There are 310 border crossings. Unless the EU is about to build a border wall, it will be impossible to keep track of the movement of goods. The EU has to protect its internal market, but it will hardly be able to do that in Ireland with this deal.

ZEIT ONLINE: Then why did the EU agree to the deal?

Anderson: Because she had little choice. The alternative would have been to exit without an agreement, and then the risk for the internal market would have been even greater. How should one have controlled the movement of goods in this case? Nobody wants a new frontier in Ireland that goes right through cemeteries, churches and houses. French President Emmanuel Macron has so far been the only one who has had the courage and integrity to speak out to Boris Johnson: the only real solution to the Brexit problem is the reunification of Ireland. But nobody is seriously approaching the British Government to let the people of Northern Ireland decide on this matter for themselves. I can not understand that. Division is now the EU's problem.