Many of the conflicts around the world have their roots in the way that the British colonialists drew lines creating nations that divided people that had common identities and joined together in one nation groups that had tensions with each other. After the British left as a result of the decolonization process, these ethnic conflicts simmered and exploded. Robert Mackey says that the British did the same thing with Ireland and that is now biting them in the rear when it comes to Brexit.
Had English rulers never embarked on the centuries-long process of colonizing Ireland, or never imposed a partition on the island in 1921, to create a loyalist enclave where British Protestant settlers outnumbered the native Irish Catholics, it would today be a relatively simple matter for Britain, encompassing just England, Scotland, and Wales, to exit the EU.
Then there’s the problem that the winding, 300-mile-long frontier defined as the border of the new province of Northern Ireland by the British government in 1921 was in no sense a natural border. There is no mountain range or body of water dividing Ireland in two parts, there is just a line on the map, hastily drawn by retreating colonial civil servants — a strategy later termed “divide and quit” by Penderel Moon, a British colonial officer involved in the empire’s equally ill-conceived partition of India in 1947.
The 1921 partition line that created the new, British-controlled province of Northern Ireland, along ancient county borders that these days run through fields, towns and houses, was also drawn in the service of a blatant act of large-scale gerrymandering. It was a new line drawn on the world map to divide one island nation into two parts so that a retreating colonial power could ensure that the descendants of its settlers would control an enclave in which they would be in the majority.
That division gave rise to decades of political violence and terrorism in Northern Ireland and Britain, known with Ulster understatement as “the Troubles,” during which more than 3,500 people were killed, basic civil rights and due process were suspended, and the British Army erected watchtowers and checkpoints and destroyed hundreds of roads, bridges, and country lanes to control the flow of people and goods between the two parts of Ireland.
Mackey says that the British partitioning of Ireland and India was “ill-conceived”. I am not sure if by that word he meant that they did not foresee the negative consequences. This happened so many times that one has to think that the British were intentional, that it was all part of their divide and rule strategy.
While the US has created vast amounts of misery around the world with its wars, support of repressive governments, and neoliberal policies that have created so much inequality in the world, the British have to shoulder a lot of the blame for seeding multi-generational conflicts by the way that they drew national boundaries and fomented ethnic hostilities.