- Ireland:borders and borderlines
The troubled history of Derry-Londonderry is still visible in the city. A map on the riverside directs visitors to the Bloody Sunday Memorial and the H Block Monument, while the Peace Bridge, opened in 2011, physically and symbolically links the largely unionist ‘Waterside’ with the largely nationalist ‘Cityside’. One of the outcomes of the peace process has been to dismantle many of the hard borders that used to divide communities both within the North and between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the South. On an average weekend the city is filled with pedestrians from both sides of the border. The easy movement between these jurisdictions is now an everyday reality for these communities. The Peace Bridge became a focal point for events during the City of Culture Celebrations in 2013, the River Foyle thus becoming ‘a route rather than barrier - a place where events occur rather than a liminal space between two sides of the city’.1 On either side of the bridge there is a plaque recognising the support of European Regional Development Fund. It is one of many visible signs of EU involvement in the recent development of the city.
The political border between the North and the South represents the most obvious residual impact of Ireland’s status as a post-colony; and even though the South has experienced considerable economic growth since the 1990s, the legacies of under-development are evident in a weak indigenous industry sector and comparatively poor (by European standards) public infrastructure and service provision. The economic policy developed by the Irish state over the last thirty years can be seen, in part, as a response to these limitations. The Irish state has positioned [End Page 64] itself as a strategic economic border between the US and Europe, seeking to attract US multinationals through a low corporate tax rate, an English-speaking workforce and the promise of access to European markets. In this capacity, it has also gained a reputation as a borderline tax haven.
With Brexit, there comes the possibility that these borders will be redrawn in a variety of ways. Firstly, the global political upheaval of Brexit may challenge the already fragile political-economic trajectory of the Irish state post-crisis. Secondly, new regional inequalities created by the crisis may be further exacerbated, particularly for communities in border regions. Thirdly, Brexit has potential implications for migrants who have moved between Ireland and Britain, and could radically revise the border between the North and South. Finally, Brexit threatens to undermine certain advances made by the Northern Ireland peace process.
Economic borders and the neoliberal state project
A range of possible outcomes involving the realignment of political and economic powers following Brexit could destabilise the South of Ireland’s position within the European and global economy. While initial media and political discussion on Brexit myopically focused on how Ireland could capitalise by luring finance and technology companies from London to Dublin, more serious concerns soon emerged about the stability of Ireland’s economic position in an EU without the UK. Towards the end of June 2016, the Irish government published a ‘contingency plan’ on the implications of Brexit for Ireland. Outlining political, economic and governance implications, the plan demonstrates the continued significance of the UK’s relationship to Ireland.
Ireland’s economy is highly dependent on retaining the current geopolitical status quo. Its (partial and uneven) economic recovery and its position within the global economy are highly dependent on a specific articulation of relational geographies comprising the UK, the US and Europe. This means that a change of the magnitude of Brexit has serious implications. The loss of the UK as a strong ally could weaken Ireland’s position within the EU. Similarly, Britain leaving the EU common market could negatively impact on Ireland’s economy, in that the UK remains the country’s largest trading partner. A report published in November by the Irish Department of Finance suggested that Brexit could cause ‘negative consequences for [Ireland’s] employment, wages and the public finances lasting for at least 10 years’, and shrink [End Page 65] the Irish...