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Is a “No Deal” Brexit Still Avoidable?

Why the Irish Border Remains a Stumbling Block for Negotiations

November 19, 2018British Prime Minister Theresa May replies to questions after speaking at the Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) annual conference in London, Britain, November 2018. Toby Melville / REUTERS

W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman’s comic history of England, 1066 and All That, talks about nineteenth-century British Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone’s efforts to solve the Irish Question—the puzzle of what to do with rebellious Ireland, which was then part of the United Kingdom. According to Sellar and Yeatman, every time that Gladstone got close to an answer the Irish changed the question. Over the last couple of days, a new Irish question has stymied Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU: how to deal with the border between the Republic of Ireland, which will remain part of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which will not. This time it’s EU negotiators who keep on trying to come up with answers, while British politicians keep on changing the question.

At one point last week, it looked as though the EU and the United Kingdom

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