The Brexit Border Conundrum
On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union by 51.9 to 48.1 percent, but Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU by 55.8 to 44.2 percent.  The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an invisible line that stretches more than 300 miles, is the UK’s only land border. Once the UK leaves the EU, it will also function as an external EU border. One of the biggest questions following the Brexit vote is how to handle this border.  Currently, it is unclear whether the UK will pursue a “hard border”, which may disrupt trade and travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as well as undo the peace established by the Good Friday Agreement, or a “soft border”, which may undermine the immigration concerns that contributed to the Brexit vote.     Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit, said “[a] UK decision to leave the single market and to leave the customs union would make border checks unavoidable.”  However, on the same day that Barnier gave his statement, the UK press reported that Northern Ireland will remain in the customs union.  “The role of the Customs Union . . . in removing barriers to trade among EU member states has been crucial to the establishment of an ‘all-island economy’ on the Island of Ireland.”  The Customs Union allows the free exchange of goods among EU member states and ensures that all goods imported into the EU face the same tariff, regardless of their final member state destination.  Thus, a hard border involving the UK’s exit from the Customs Union may devastate the economies of Northern Ireland, the UK as a whole, and even the Republic of Ireland.  This post is a student blog post and in no way represents the views of the Fordham International Law Journal.