Border communities battle Brexit with planned day of action

September 19, 2016

A group of people from the border area, representing various sectors of the community, have come together to raise concerns over what they term “the devastating impact” Brexit will have on the region.

Declan Fearon, a businessman from Dromintee, is spokesperson for the group ‘Border Communities Against Brexit’.  He says the prospect of “a new EU frontier” along the border is unacceptable and is calling on people from across the area to join a planned protest against the reintroduction of a “hard border”, which will greatly impact on movement, trade and investment of cross-border businesses.

Commenting on the group’s objectives, Mr Fearon said: “We are deeply concerned about the devastating impact that Brexit will have on this region and we want to make sure our voices are heard.  It makes absolutely no sense to have one part of Ireland operating within the EU and another outside it.  However, the British Conservative government insists that it will impose an EU exit on the north of Ireland against the democratic wishes of the majority of people living here.  The prospect of a new EU frontier, stretching from Dundalk to Derry, is not something we can accept.”

A hard border would create “real hardship” for people who cross the border on a daily basis, he said.

“We could very well be facing customs checkpoints, traffic delays and the closure of local border roads.  Neither the British government nor the EU have been able to say that this will not happen.”

Mr Fearon says the British government has “no clear or cogent plan” for its exit from the EU, adding that Ireland “is bottom of the list of their concerns”.

“Article 50 has yet to even be triggered but already the uncertainty caused by the referendum result is damaging trade and investment and causing currency fluctuations which are impacting on cross-border business,” he said.

“Even all of that, however, will be overshadowed if we see the imposition of tariffs and the restriction of the free movement of goods, services and people on this island.  Brexit will be detrimental to the economic future of the entire island but particularly the border region, delivering a devastating blow just as it is getting back on its feet.

Outlining the potential impact on farming and tourism, he continued: “Trade, tourism and attracting foreign investment into the north will all suffer in the fallout of an EU exit while the end of EU economic support for peace-building projects and underfunded border areas will hit many vital community projects.    Over the past decade the EU has spent over £1 billion in the north and border areas on projects for furthering the peace process.

Similarly, with the end of EU subsidies, farmers will suffer a dramatic loss of income.  This will be a severe economic blow for rural communities as CAP accounts for approximately 80% of farm incomes in the North.  New restrictions on cross-border agricultural trade would be a devastating development for farmers, particularly in border counties. Farming communities, north and south, have always worked together.

“We have no confidence that the British Government will replace any of this funding and indeed former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has previously all but confirmed they would not.  Opportunities will be lost for students who will no longer have access to EU research funding or EU schemes to study abroad and they will face additional costs and barriers if they want to attend college in the south.

“The GAA, an all-Ireland organisation which plays a huge and positive role in community life here, will also be affected.  How will all island groups be affected by Brexit, will funding for rural clubs in the north be replaced, will players face obstacles crossing the border for games?  The British Government have answered none of these questions.  No one who lives in border communities wants to see any of this. We do not want any barriers or borders on the island of Ireland.”

To reinforce their opposition, Border Communities Against Brexit is organising a ‘Day of Action’ against any strengthening or reinforcement of the border. A public demonstration will take place on Saturday 8th October at 3pm at the old Customs Post at Carrickcarnon.

“We would encourage as many people as possible, including representatives from all political parties, to take part in this event to oppose the return of a hard border, to stand up for the right of the people in the north to remain within the EU, and for the votes of people here to be respected,” Mr Fearon added.