Brexit was always making this more likely, and it makes perfect sense for dissidents to strike first. They have the most to lose from the collapse of the GFA. So, this was exactly what happened. Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams called for resistance to Brexit – political resistance, but the interpretation of that call by dissidents, keen to usurp the position of Sinn Féin and get the ball rolling on a fresh Intifada that can be escalated with the right encouragement from the British security forces, was of course going to be armed resistance.
In practical terms this divergence means that British rule on the island of Ireland will come to an end, ultimately bringing about the conditions in which a border poll on the constitutional future of the six counties will be reduced to little more than a legal formality. Given the population demographics of the province and the mutual economic interdependence of Ireland and the six counties, the long-term consequence of this deal – if agreed – will be the eventual unification of Ireland.
Special status for Northern Ireland, which rejected Brexit, will be a slap in the face for Scotland – which also rejected Brexit. As the six counties do not have significant oil and gas resources and Scotland does, no such arrangement will be considered for the Scots. This cannot play out well for British unity. The majority of Scotland – including its unionist base – rejected Brexit, Holyrood has refused legislative consent to any deal that does not consider the interests of the Scottish voters, and those voters themselves know what’s best for them.
London has every reason to deny it is currently considering the idea. May’s government depends on the support of the DUP, the political representatives of Ulster Loyalists – a community in the province that wants to see no difference between its “country” and the rest of the UK. But the British government has a nasty habit of denying its plans around Brexit. It denied a power grab in Scotland, and we all know what happened then. Denial is a British tactic designed to limit resistance to its plans until they are ready to be rolled out.
What emerged after the re-think hiatus of Scottish unionism was a hard core remnant of British nationalists; they have metamorphosed from pious peddlers of almost believable British lies into hard-nosed defenders of the union, no matter the cost. After this resurrection we found ourselves looking into the blank and pitiless eyes of born again, fundamentalist, extremist British nationalists; people with nothing left but a union jack and a thousand-yard stare.
Trust? Kinship? Not likely. Britain is the same old heart-scald it has always been to Ireland. Nothing has changed. This should be a lesson to Scotland and Wales. If people think the English state is the geopolitical equivalent of a bout of haemorrhoids while they’re trying to free themselves from it, they should consider how those who have already beaten it are treated.