Watch: Why is Brexit’s Irish backstop a contentious issue for Ireland and the UK?

Journalist Peter Oborne used to be a fierce Brexiter. But now, over three years since he voted for a British exit, the reporter has reconsidered his position. The reason? Northern Ireland.

Let’s rewind a bit.

On September 4, the UK’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, told the European Union that with the lack of ideas for replacing the Irish backstop, an impasse had arisen. A matter of great political, security and diplomatic sensitivity, as described by the BBC, the Irish backstop has been a constant sore thumb in drafts of withdrawal agreements.

The issue concerns talks on the sort of border between Northern Ireland – part of the UK – and the Republic of Ireland – a sovereign state – after the UK exits the EU. At present an open border exists between the two regions, the result of the Good Friday agreement, which came into being after a prolonged conflict that cost over 3,000 lives between 1960 and 1998.

Called “The Troubles”, the conflict was fought over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. While Unionists, mainly Protestants, wanted Northern Ireland to remain with the UK, Irish nationalists, mainly Catholics, wanted Northern Ireland to leave the UK and join a united Ireland.

So far, an open border has meant few restrictions on travel and easy trading of goods and services between the two regions. However, once the UK leaves the EU, especially in the case of a no-deal Brexit, this could change. Fears remain that once the open border becomes a hard one, the violence and deaths of the last century will be repeated.

However, since the British parliament voted against a no-deal Brexit, the Irish are partly relieved and hopes of a coordinated agreement remain.