21 September 2018   Leave a comment

For over a year, the British have been trying to figure out a way to leave the European Union–the “Brexit” demanded by a referendum in the United Kingdom in June 2016–while retaining some access to the continent-wide economic union.  There are a number of outstanding issues, but the one that has loomed largest is the relationship between Northern Ireland, which is part of Great Britain, and the Republic of Ireland which is independent of Great Britain.  The tension between those who support Northern Ireland who identify as Protestants who believe they need British support and the Republic of Ireland who identify as Catholics and believe in the unity of Ireland as a whole is longstanding and has a history of violence and recrimination.  That tension began to ease with the Good Friday Agreement which slowly set the terms for the integration of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.

If Great Britain left the European Union and its relationship to Northern Ireland did not change, then trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic Ireland (which would remain as a member of the EU) would change from trade within the European Union to trade between an EU member and a non-EU member.  Thus, it is possible that a Brexit would require Northern Ireland to establish a “hard” border with the Republic of Ireland, complete with immigration and customs controls.  Such a border would reverse all the progress in uniting all of Ireland that has been made since the Good Friday Agreement.  So far, Great Britain has been unable to persuade the EU that this outcome can be avoided without violating the spirit of the EU commitments.

The war in Yemen is one of the ugliest wars in the world today.  It has been conducted with scant regard for the lives of civilians, from indiscriminate bombing to the restrictions on access to humanitarian assistance.   Over 17,000 civilians have been killed since the war began in 2015.  What began as a civil war has morphed into a proxy war between Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Shia country of Iran.  The US has strongly supported Saudi Arabia, supplying it with weapons, intelligence, and mid-air refueling for its fighter jets.   The US Congress has never approved US participation in the war, but it has demanded that the State Department certify that all steps are being taken to avoid civilian casualties by its allies receiving assistance.   US Secretary of State Pompeo made that certification to the Congress despite overwhelming evidence that Saudi Arabia has not taken rigorous steps to protect civilians.  There was little public outcry over the move. 

Posted September 21, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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