The prospect of a “hard border” on the island of Ireland has become a central issue in the Brexit negotiations. In the first year of the talks, both the UK and the EU agreed to commit to avoiding a hard border, a commitment that played an important role in the development of the current withdrawal agreement. According to the UK Implementation Plan (July 2020), a system for controlling goods entering from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will require three types of electronic documents, as described in an eleven-page document.  5 For all those who try to describe the Irish border as it is today, the exercise is very similar to that of every European internal border. The Irish border sees and operates like any normal intra-European border through which goods, services, capital and population movements pass.2 Unlike other European borders, the current situation on the island of Ireland is not the only result of London and Dublin`s accession to the EEC/EU since 1973. It is first of all the result of a political compromise between the two Irish communities and between the two sovereign states anchored in the PMB. Until the 1998 peace settlement and even though the two sovereign states were members of the EEC/EU, the Irish border had remained very within other European borders. It became heavily policeted and militarized. The number of routes across the border was limited and hindered the international transport of people, as well as cross-border trade in goods, services and capital.3 “The prevention of a hard border has been placed at the centre of this process as a priority for the Uk and the European Union, as they recognise the symbolism of the current opening of the border.” At the end of September 2019, during the litigation before the courts of the European Union Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker pointed out that a British animal that theoretically enters northern Ireland could theoretically cross the Republic of Ireland and enter the continental EU from there if there were no border controls.  “This will not happen,” he said, “we must preserve the health and safety of our citizens.”  For example, last year Foreign Minister Simon Coveney wrote that the agreement had removed “physical and emotional” barriers between communities in Ireland. She found that people living in the area see what is happening at the border as “a signal for the quality of peace.” Second, after losing her majority in the 2017 election, May was forced to enter into a so-called “confidence and supply agreement” with the 10 Members of the Democratic Unionist Party to govern. The DUP sees a united Ireland as an existential threat to its British Protestant identity.
It is the largest party in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement, although it represents only about 36% of the electorate. Since about 2005, the border has been considered invisible, with little or no physical infrastructure, with security barriers and checkpoints being eliminated as a result of processes introduced by the Good Friday Agreement (or “Belfast Agreement” signed in 1998).    This agreement has the status of both an international treaty between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (the Anglo-Irish Agreement) and an agreement between the parties in Northern Ireland (multi-party agreement).