Hard-Brexiteers would like the UK to have a "clean break" with the EU, and in particular they don't want any part of the UK to stay even temporarily in the customs union (the so-called backstop).

This "clean break" would normally require a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but a hard border would breach the Good Friday Agreement. It seems that the options "the UK leaves the customs union" and "the Good Friday Agreement is upheld" are mutually exclusive.

As far as I'm aware, the only idea that some hard-Brexiteers have proposed to solve this contradiction is a soft border using "seamless technology". Even assuming that such a technological option is feasible for the trade of goods, wouldn't that leave a backdoor wide open for illegal immigration from the EU to the UK? If yes, are hard-Brexiteers ok with that? Alternatively, are there any hard-Brexiteers who support a hard border?

To summarize, what do hard-Brexiteers see as the ideal outcome for the Irish border in the long term?

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    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 14:26
  • > This "clean break" would normally require a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but a hard border would breach the Good Friday Agreement. A 'hard' border would not breach the Good Friday Agreement. The full text of the text of the agreement contains no mentions of the status of the border at all.
    – DrMcCleod
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 14:58
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    The only answer to the question linked under "breach the Good Friday Agreement" appears to conclude that the GFA does not require an open border. Therefore the premise of this question appears to be incorrect.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 21:30
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    For "seamless technology" read hand-wavium barriers manned by shoggoths. No-one has anything more detailed than that yet.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 11:43

4 Answers 4


They tend to think it's somebody else's problem (Ireland's and/or the DUP's). Unless you are part of the DUP of course. See how Rees-Mogg has been punting the problem along the lines of: I agree with whatever the DUP agrees (or at least doesn't oppose) on Northern Ireland. And at the same time he says that in the case of no-deal Ireland would not dare to impose a hard border. Which is true to some extent.

The DUP has given a number of somewhat contradictory statements on this, over time. From the somewhat famous denial that a hard border ever existed to the more recent position(s) that they would prioritize staying in the EU over splitting Northern Ireland from the UK.

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    @Caleth: Source? For some reason, I get very very conflicting impressions... Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 18:22
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    The DUP would not be fine with that. Some of them would be OK with it ideologically, they know it would be a massively unpopular move for which they would get the blame. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 18:40
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    The Brexiters' stance is that the UK does not want a hard border, and Ireland does not want a hard border. Therefore there simply won't be a hard border. If the EU have a problem with it, then that's their problem. What are they going to do? Force Ireland to build a wall? Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 10:25
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    FYI DUP stands for the Democratic Unionist Party Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 11:13
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    @ChrisMelville AIUI the issue would be with the WTO rules, which say that you must have border controls unless you have a trade agreement saying you won't (i.e. a customs union with all that implies). Whether any brexiteer has actually addressed this issue is another question. Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 16:25

The brexiteers don't really want anything regarding the Irish border. It's just a problem preventing them getting the hard brexit that they want, and since they don't have a real solution for it they just want to pretend it's not really a problem.

That's all it is, an annoying roadblock for them.

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    Disagree on this. DUP are brexiters and have strong opinions on the matter. Ironically probably would rather a soft border
    – user19831
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 17:31
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    The "Hard Brexiteers" that make it to English press are all English, not DUP. The English over all truly, really don't give a flying monkey's about the Irish border. The vast majority isn't even clear that there's two countries on one island, and when faced with the fact they shrug. Dublin is a place for a drunken weekend like say Prague, else irrelevant. E.g., ukandeu.ac.uk/… --- "NI should stay in UK" or "I don't care either way" poll the same 36%, if you pose it separately from any costs or practical issues. Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 20:37

I'm a Remainer, but have been accused of being a Hard Brexiter on some stances in this debate, so I'll take a stab. The WTO, the Repubic of Ireland, the UK and the EU have all recently made declarations and supporting statements that they have no intention of putting up border checks on any border between the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. They will instead impose checks at warehouses and other centers of of commerce. The UK is adamant that they will not impose any border check on any borders between ROI and NI (already been there and done that) and currently, through the HMRC, conduct such checks (for immigration and contraband) in Northern Ireland. So it seems that this issue is, perhap ironically, sorting itself out whether there is a 'hard' Brexit or not. The means by which such controls can be done are long established by many nations around the world:

It will not be perfect. Nobody has a perfect system that I'm aware of. But it will suffice to control immigration and movement of goods to some extent and, most importantly, prevent any return of the Troubles.

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    @ErikP. I haven't heard anybody, Remainer or Brexiter, claim it would be 'no big deal'. But I have heard the WTO, EU and ROI say that they will use other means than ROI/NI checks at a border. Anyway, I've found a couple of interesting examples, one that supports your statement about US/Canada cooperation.
    – ouflak
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 16:57
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    @ouflak Isn't it illegal to cross the US/CA border away from a crossing point, even if you are a citizen of the country you are entering and don't have any contraband? The people on both sides of the NI border have become used to doing just this.
    – Rich
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 2:50
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    (-1) The last sentence does all the work (“prevent any return of the Troubles”) but explains nothing. From the beginning, rightly or wrongly, the concern coming from Ireland and relayed by the EU is that any type of border check or infrastructure could become a source of renewed tensions. None of the examples provided in the answer address that. Otherwise, it would relatively trivial for the EU to offer a solution (cf. the borders with Norway or Switzerland, which are considerably “softer” than the USA/Canada border).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 10:34
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    @outflak These operations are going on now when both the UK and Ireland are in the EU. It's also happening between Germany and the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France, etc. So how does it tell us anything about what's needed once the UK leaves the EU?
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 7:21
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    @ErikP. Free movement has exactly nothing to do with the state of the border in Northern Ireland. There were never immigration controls, only customs controls and military security checkpoints. The customs controls were removed because of the EU, and the security controls were removed in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement. Ouflak: it is indeed illegal to enter the US away from a border post, except for people with special permits to do so in boats (on the great lakes). While people can cross the border in the library, they can only exit to the country they entered from.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 4:50

What the hard Brexiters want is for Ireland to leave the EU at the same time as the UK and negotiate a bilateral trade treaty on the UK's terms that keeps the border open. There is of course precisely zero chance of them getting it.

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    Some citations that that is a) what they want and b) that there is no chance of them getting it would be appreciated.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 18:28
  • @Tim The only evidence of this is negative evidence — Brexiteers are opposed to every other possibility. They want a border between London and Brussels, but not between London and Belfast or between Belfast and Dublin. They therefore must want a border between Dublin and Brussels.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 7:21
  • nonsense. Brexiteers (whatever that term means) are not a uniform group, all having all the same opinions.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 8:47

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