The Brexit Border Blunder

Caught in the crossfire.

Photographer: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

The usual Brexit disclaimer — the U.K. has no good options, only less-bad ones — applies with extra force when it comes to the dilemma over the Irish border. Nevertheless, the issue will be easier to address, if not resolve, once the U.K. and European Union start trade negotiations in earnest.

There is currently no physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and the Irish Republic, which is part of the EU. Some 37 percent of Northern Ireland's exports go to Ireland, while nearly 14 percent of Irish exports go to the U.K. This close economic relationship, and the nearly two-decade-old Good Friday peace agreement, are underpinned by EU membership and common EU regulations. It is in nobody's interest to jeopardize these economic ties.

Yet the EU has refused to open trade talks until Britain resolves the question of where the new EU-U.K. border will be and guarantees that Ireland won't be cut off, either through regulation or physically, from Northern Ireland.