In October 2019, the UK and EU negotiators agreed on a revised protocol (see below) that solved many of these problems by leaving the EU de jure, but with a de facto border between islands (Ireland and Britain). In January 2019, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas asked British MPs not to let Britain leave the EU without a deal, saying that “some people call us heady, but the truth is that preventing a hard border in Ireland is a fundamental concern of the EU, a Union that serves more than anything – to build and maintain peace in Europe.”  However, the European Commission`s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said on January 23 that it was “obvious” that there would be a hard border if the UK left the EU without a deal.  Any free trade agreement does not avoid a hard border because it fell short of a customs union, and the technological solutions discussed are, at best, far from the future. This obliges the UK either to accept the legal wording of the EU`s backstop insurance approach as necessary for the ongoing regulatory harmonisation on the island of Ireland, or to come forward with plausible alternative proposals. Since about 2005, the border has been perceived as invisible, with little or no physical infrastructure, as security barriers and checkpoints have been removed due to processes introduced by the Good Friday Agreement (or “Belfast Agreement”) signed in 1998. T22 [b]  This agreement has both the status of an international treaty between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (Anglo-Irish agreement) and an agreement between the parties in Northern Ireland (multi-party agreement). The agreement, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in April 2018, has not fully resolved the tensions of the past. There have been no peace commissions or reconciliation efforts, nor has there been a lasting answer to the constitutional question. But Northern Ireland has started to move slowly in the right direction. The new General Assembly focused on routine governance issues. There has been an influx of foreign investors, with Invest Northern Ireland with nearly 900 international companies employing around 100,000 people.2 Belfast, which was named the best tourist destination by Lonely Planet in 2018, opened a locally built museum on the Titanic, serving as the site for “Game of Thrones” and other media productions and attracting hipster shops and cafes to its city centre. Relations between the United Kingdom and Ireland have also improved, supported by the creation of “East-West” (Anglo-Irish) institutions that have enabled cross-border policy coordination (e.g. B agriculture and environment) and “North-South” institutions on the island.
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