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Hey, what's going on with Brexit?
Well, there sure has been a lot of political squabbling here at ground level.
...float away from all that for a look at the big picture.
Up here it's easier to see the one-two-three
of the impossible Trinity.
But first, quick British Isles primer:
The United Kingdom contains England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
This last part of the United Kingdom shares
the island of Ireland with the country of Ireland.
This Ireland is in the European Union and the United Kingdom is...
Well, that's the whole thing, isn't it?
Before UK voted to Brexit,
the European Union wall encircled them all.
(The wall isn't literal, it's a metaphor for
the overlapping circles of EU institutions
and border complications impossible to draw, so...)
It's a metaphor wall.
Maximum Brexit is the exit where UK leaves
to build her own wall separate from the EU
and be like any other country.
This maximum Brexit is the top of the Trinity,
with a wall around the UK,
which, following the border,
would go straight across the Irish island.
Hah—Oh, oh no...
The books on Ireland, Northern Ireland's and the UK's
long and complicated (and sometimes frightening) relationship
are not tomes to be opened here.
The much shorter and safer version is
there used to be a wall between the Irelands
but there was a lot of the violence and a lot of the troubles
until on a very good Friday
Ireland and the UK agreed there would never be a wall between them again,
full stop.
This, while it didn't uncomplicate the relationship,
at least made it nonviolent.
A new wall plowing between them
would break this vital political promise,
thus UK and Ireland and even EU all agree:
a wall here is super no bueno.
No wall across Ireland is the second vertex of the impossible Trinity.
Wait, why do we need a wall anyway?
Oh, right: the maximum Brexit creates a land border with the EU.
because UK is an island unto herself mostly,
but not completely.
So if UK says this is unacceptable
and all agree *this* is unacceptable,
then the wall could go...
here, maybe?
Ah, compromise!
UK tries to march out of the EU
but not everybody makes it.
Northern Ireland stays in the EU (sort of?)
on the other side of the wall while still being part of the UK,
while the EU whispers into her ear
that were she to let go and unite with Ireland,
that's cool with EU.
Ain't no thing, girl.
Poor Northern Ireland.
She's on Ireland,
but mostly thinks of herself as British,
but also Irish,
but could end up being the last part of the UK in the EU,
while also having the right to leave the UK
and join Ireland if she ever votes to.
For UK,
this situation means a wall inside the United Kingdom.
No nation wants to create an external wall through internal territory.
Thus, the final vertex of the Trinity:
No walls inside the UK.
Leaving Northern Ireland behind while staying connected to her
also means some of those overlapping EU institutions
can pass through the wall,
making Britain's Brexit rather less than maximum.
Aaand political geography being what it is,
that's it for options!
This, this or this,
all of which the UK refuses.
But you wanted the wall in a different place!
That was like, your whole thing!
None of these are acceptable.
Thus the impossible Trinity where the UK must pick a side.
Promising no walls means no maximum Brexit,
promising maximum Brexit means
there's got to be a wall somewhere,
and so, for a long time,
nothing of consequence happened.
Can... pick now?
(sips tea)
What if I put the wall...
But only temporarily.
That doesn't solve anything!
That just kicks the Northern Ireland down the road
until we're right back where we started!
So that's what's been going on with Brexit.
There's nothing as permanent as a temporary solution
and ultimately, there's no avoiding the Trinity.
There's three things...
...pick two.
You can go now.