A rainbow is seen near border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland, Britain, 02 March 2019. Neither the UK nor the EU wants a hard border, and the Irish backstop is the mechanism that negotiators agreed upon to prevent that from happening.
The open border, a now-invisible, 499-kilometer (310-mile) line running through countryside, farmland and bisecting main roads, is enshrined in an international peace deal that in 1998 helped to extinguish decades of sectarian and political violence in Northern Ireland; a period known as the Troubles. Over 3,000 people died during the Troubles, which saw unionist paramilitaries from largely Protestant areas, who identify as British, and republican militias from largely Catholic areas, who sought a re-unified Ireland, trade terror.
Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019, two years after Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50, the mechanism to notify the EU of her country’s intention to abandon the member’s club after the tightly-contested 2016 referendum.
The results of that referendum exposed a divided nation. Leave won, claiming 52 percent of the overall vote. Voters in England and Wales came out in favor of leave, while Scotland and Northern Ireland plumped for remain.