The consequences of Boris Johnson’s careless Brexit are playing out in Belfast | Jonathan Freedland

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This week’s violence is an ominous sign that leaving the EU took a wrecking ball to the Good Friday agreement

The most powerful arguments against Brexit were never about trade and tariffs. They were about peace and war, about life and death. One was a general argument centred on the true, founding purpose of the European Union: to ensure that a continent mired in blood for centuries would not descend into conflict again. The other was more specific, peculiar to these islands: that shared membership of the EU had proved to be the key that unlocked peace in Northern Ireland after three decades of murderous pain.

The logic was simple enough. So long as both the UK and Ireland were in the same EU club, the border between them could be blurred, allowing people in the north to identify as British or Irish or both without too much friction. That was the foundation on which the Good Friday agreement, signed 23 years ago tomorrow, was built – a foundation that would be broken if either country were to break from Brussels. Taken together, these were the life-and-death arguments for continued UK membership of the EU, and some tried valiantly to make them. But they were barely heard.

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