How Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Impacts Northern Ireland’s Relations With The UK, EU, & Its Irish Neighbors

How Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Impacts Northern Ireland’s Relations With The UK, EU, & Its Irish Neighbors

Northern Ireland's Isolation has added much trepidation to Brexit Negotiations

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This week, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the Withdrawal Agreement, a plan outlining the United Kingdom's legal departure from the European Union (i.e. the process of Brexit). However, aside from extremely controversial provisions, such as the terms of post-Brexit transition period between the UK and the EU, which has led to multiple members of May's cabinet resigning in protest, there is specifically one point of contention which may threaten the very territorial harmony of the UK.

This concerns the relations that the UK's Northern Ireland has with its southwestern neighbor, the Republic of Ireland. Since Republic of Ireland is planning to remain in the EU, if Northern Ireland leaves the EU along with the rest of the UK, it may be forced to implement a "hard border" with its neighbor due to its now different, non-EU, commercial and customs policies.

In order to avoid a large division on the Irish island, which could impel Irish nationalists to resume attacks similar to those of The Troubles period (where hundreds were killed by terrorist attacks carried out by nationalists seeking to unite the whole of the island under Irish rule during much of the latter half of the 20th century), Prime Minister May has decreed that Northern Ireland "will continue to abide by all of the EU's trading rules." However, this will only lead to a new set of pressing concerns for the political parties of Northern Ireland, as they, especially the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), are now openly opposing May's Brexit agreement because they do not want abide by the "customs backstop" and be in "EU customs territory" since this would lead to the economic isolation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the post-Brexit UK. In order to win back the support of the DUP and, by extension, a vital parliamentary voting bloc needed to pass the Withdrawal Agreement, Theresa May must find a way to ensure the UK citizens of Northern of their long-term economic security.

In order to understand how the political actors of Northern Ireland can be convinced that the Withdrawal Agreement upholds their interests, the implications of the customs backstop must first be considered. If the UK leaves the EU, it could very well slap tariffs on commerce with polities still involved in the EU.

Since Northern Ireland would continue to have EU commerce policies, a "tariff and regulatory border" would severely harm many businesses in Northern Ireland that conduct commerce with other UK territories, since about Northern Ireland currently exports around £15 billion worth of goods to the rest of the UK, which amounts to nearly 20% of all Northern Irish exports. The economic risk is so great that some unionists (people in favor of Northern Ireland being as big a part of the UK as possible) believe that this customs problem could "jettison Northern Ireland as an equal partner for the sake of greater freedom for Great Britain." In other words, the economic well being of many in Northern Ireland could be sacrificed in order to create a satisfying Brexit deal for the rest of the UK, an agreement that Northern Ireland's politicians are naturally outraged about.

Despite such setbacks, May's government is making some strides towards securing the necessary support needed to pass the Withdrawal Agreement, customs backstop and all. After conducting Theresa May personally met with Northern Irish business organizations at Downing Street, some of them, such as the Confederacy of British Industry (CBI), have chosen to throw their support behind May's Brexit deal, largely in order to avoid the prospect of a Brexit without any concrete agreement, which could make it difficult for Northern Irish businesses to obtain substantive investment from both the EU and the UK.

While May's current attempts to "provide the reassurance that I know is so important to [businesses]" seems scant, it appears to be having an impact. The Ulster Farmers' Union, another prominent Northern Irish business group, directly urged the DUP to reverse its current sentiments and back May's deal. Protests from businesses and their organizations may put political pressure on the DUP in their own regional political stronghold and make them more likely to support the withdrawal agreement. However, the situation remains ugly, as the DUP is "critical of business organisations" that support May's Brexit Deal. There is currently no vote scheduled for the Withdrawal agreement, so much remains to be seen as to whether or not Northern Ireland will fare well in the ongoing Brexit international crisis.

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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A Florida House Committee Is Undermining Your Vote On Amendment 4

Before felons can regain their right to vote, they must pay court fines, fees, and take care of any other "financial obligations." Essentially, this is a poll tax.

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Amendment 4, also known as the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, was added to the Constitution of Florida after being passed this last midterm election on November 6, 2018.

Amendment 4 restored the voting rights of Floridians with prior felony convictions after all terms of their sentence have been met, including parole and probation. This amendment only applies to felons who have not been convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

On January 8, 2019, an estimated 1.4 million ex-felons regained their right to vote. This is monumental. Prior to this amendment, Florida was one of four states that used felony disenfranchisement. Amendment 4 gives voice, and rightfully so, to felons who have served their time. Amendment 4 is also putting to rest, finally, years and years of disenfranchisement and suppression.

Now, only two months after its passage, the House Criminal Justice Committee is trying to water down this piece of legislation. This is a direct violation of the will of the 64% of Floridians who voted for the legislation as is. This amendment was not to be "clarified," as Governor DeSantis put it, but rather to be self-implementing.

However, the House Criminal Justice Committee proposed a bill that would tack on some extra qualifiers in order for felons to be enfranchised. The bill will require court fines, fees, and other "financial obligations" (in addition to fees administered in a judge's sentence) to be paid in full before a felon's voting rights are restored. This seems awfully similar to a poll tax to me. Obviously, this is going to affect people without a lot of resources rather than white-collar criminals who can afford a $500,000 bond.

This new qualifier will prevent felons from voting based on the money that can be coughed up as if they don't have to worry about their finances long after they leave prison.

Some may argue that these felons shouldn't have committed a crime in the first place. However, I would argue that holding a felon's vote hostage on the basis of money is unconstitutional.

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