This Friday, the 29th of March, is the date on which the UK should have left the EU. Now we don’t know whether it will be April the 12th or May the 22nd – or maybe in two years’ time. Theresa May and the parliament in Westminster don’t know either.
The economic consequences of a crash-out Brexit – with no deal – have been laid out in black and white this week. Anyone who wants to know where the next recession is going to come from will have their answer very soon if the UK and EU do not come to some agreement in the next couple of weeks.
Those in the know say a no-deal scenario is closer than ever this week. My biggest fear is not an economic downturn, but the possibility that violence will return to this country in border areas and further afield. Any sort of border checks (inevitable if there is a crash-out) will be music to the ears of many of the paramilitaries on both sides of the political divide, people who would only relish the chance to re-ignite the hatred and misery.
We have a generation of young people who have grown up in an atmosphere of relative peace on this island. The Good Friday Agreement, for all its flaws, has delivered peace, and if that were to stop or be undermined, it would be a far bigger price to pay than any economic downturn.
The politicians north of the border have much to answer for over the past couple of years. The DUP and Sinn Fein cannot agree to sit down and work together, and as a result there has been no Government in Northern Ireland for the past few years. There is no-one to represent the people as the biggest challenge that they have ever faced is unfolding in London. Public representatives on all sides in Northern Ireland should be ashamed of themselves. Apart from the fact that Sinn Fein refuses to take their seats at Westminster – despite the fact that the could have helped to engineer a deal on Brexit – there is a real prospect of a return to the bad old days on the border and on the island of Ireland as a whole.
I have watched a number of documentaries about the 1980s in this country in recent weeks. It would be deeply depressing to return to those days of hatred, bitterness and cruelty. If the situation were to worsen again (in terms of violence) it would take decades to stop it again, if indeed it were to be successfully stopped.
The British Government have shown that they are unable to deal with Brexit, but the consequences here on this island could be far greater that anywhere else. Price rises and job losses will only be minor considerations if the violence of old resumes. Frightening and depressing times. Can we all pray that a deal is done – even at this late stage?