LEADING Brexiteer, Jacob Rees Mogg received an education in a life of uncertainty for communities on the Irish Border when he paid a visit last week.
Travelling to the areas of Belcoo and Blacklion with Sky News last Tuesday, the Conservative MP was quite taken by how the seemingly invisible line separating the North and South of Ireland, was perhaps not as simple as he had envisioned on paper and instead: “wiggles back and forth”, in his own words.
But despite hearing the concerns of Border communities and what they believe Brexit will mean for them, he remains just as steadfast to his belief that the issue of Ireland’s border has a very simple solution. The Conservative MP had come under fire recently after voicing his belief that he didn’t really need to visit the Border to get a true sense of the challenges it poses for Brexit.
But taking up the offer to meet with people living in the area face-to-face, he said he was visiting with “an open mind”.
“I thought it would be interesting,” he said of the opportunity, “I hadn’t visited the Border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It seemed an interested thing to do,” he added, “I think one can perfectly well understand issues without making a physical visit. I think it is always sensible to be open to the possibility of changing one’s mind…but I wouldn’t put money on it.”
Barely discussed during the EU referendum, Ireland’s Border has become one of the biggest stumbling blocks in steering the UK’s exit from Europe forward.
With both sides agreeing in December 2017 “that the UK remains committed to protecting North-South co-operation and its guarantee of avoiding a hard Border”, an agreement on how to achieve this has yet to be reached.
For Mr. Rees-Mogg though, the way forward is simple.
He wants Prime Minister Theresa May to declare she will not impose a hard Border on the island of Ireland, calling the South’s bluff and challenging Dublin to put it up instead.
“I think it’s an obvious negotiating point which is that if you want a Border you put it up,” he told Sky News.
“You negotiate with your best cards and you’ve got to call the bluff of the other side when they are suggesting things they simply will not do.”
But for the people living on the Border, it is a gamble with far too much uncertainty.
So when he met with Fermanagh cattle and sheep farmer, John Sheridan, Mr. Rees Mogg received a few home truths.
“There already is a Border on paper that is managed away from the Border,” the Conservative tried to argue.
But the anti-Brexit farmer was having none of it.
“The practicalities of even just a simple meal lorry delivering meal to our yard – it comes out of Donegal – it comes out of Donegal Jacob, all right?” said Mr. Sheridan.
“But people delivering meal will still have to meet the standards of the country they are delivering to,” Mr. Rees Mogg offered back.
“So you just depend on the paper work then?” Mr. Sheridan asked him.
“We do any way,” Mr. Rees Mogg replied.
Getting a measure of each other, Mr. Sheridan said the Conservative was well-versed in his Brexit argument.
“I’m looking at Jacob Rees Mogg on the TV nearly every day for goodness sake. He is a very articulate, calm man who can put his case very well of course.”
Reflecting on the conversation, Mr. Rees Mogg said: “It is very interesting to come here and see how the border physically works and how it wiggles back and forth. You can understand people being concerned because there is a lack of clarity.”
On to Blacklion and the MP met with, among others, Sinn Fein supporter Chris McCaffrey, who travels across the border on a regular basis for work: “The people here on the border would feel like Theresa May and this Conservative government don’t understand just how important the Irish border problem is,” He told the politician.
But he remained undeterred in his vision for a way forward.
“Here’s this road behind me which goes from the Republic of Ireland into the UK and the question is: ‘Can this road be kept open?’. And the UK government, by saying it will keep it open solves half the problem.
“And the challenge then is for the Irish government and the EU to say in return: ‘We will keep our half of the border open.
“And that issue has not changed from before I came to being here.”
But while he is promoting a simplified option of how the border issue can be resolved, Mrs. May is less than convinced. And so the border issue rumbles on. 
European leaders have expressed concern over lack of progress on a “backstop” solution over the Irish border.
The EU urged the UK to intensify its efforts so a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement can be concluded as soon as possible.
The bloc recalled commitments undertaken by the UK over the backstop, to be introduced if there is no deal, in March and December.
A statement said: “The European Council expresses its concern that no substantial progress has yet been achieved on agreeing a backstop solution for Ireland/Northern Ireland.
“It recalls the commitments undertaken by the UK in this respect in December 2017 and March 2018, and insists on the need for intensified efforts so that the Withdrawal Agreement, including its provisions on transition, can be concluded as soon as possible in order to come into effect on the date of withdrawal.
“It recalls that negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full.”
EU-27 leaders attended a Brussels meeting of the European Council on Brexit last Friday after the departure of British Prime Minister Theresa May.