Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Brexit paper comes under fierce criticism

A British Brexit paper published last week has called for an “unprecedented solution” for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Whitehall’s “Northern Ireland and Ireland” position paper, published by the British Government on Wednesday last, focuses on the need to avoid a hard border or any sort of physical infrastructure dividing north and south.

Critics say the proposals lack any credible detail with many describing the paper as “aspirational.”

The document is the second to be published by the British Government and it outlines how the border will operate and how trade between Ireland and Britain will be carried out post-Brexit. 

Central to the paper’s proposals is the government’s desire to uphold the Good Friday Agreement and safeguard the Common Travel Area, which enables free movement between Ireland and Britain.  It also advocates continued peace funding for the north and border counties,

The government’s paper does not envisage CCTV cameras or number plate recognition technology at the border and it sets out the case for a wide-ranging exemption under which small and medium-sized businesses will not have to comply with any new customs tariffs. For larger firms, the paper suggests a new ‘streamlined’ customs regime that would see declarations completed retrospectively either online or at the company’s premises.

The document again rejects the idea of a ‘sea border’ around Ireland, that would likely lead to immigration checks for people travelling between the north and Britain, and it proffers a transition period “linked to the implementation of the arrangements, to allow a smooth and orderly transition”.

Locally, businesses and residents have expressed concern as to what the documents actually means for a post-Brexit Northern Ireland.

Newry Chamber of Commerce member and local business owner Declan McChesney told Channel 5 News last week that he fears the introduction of any kind of border controls would be “disastrous.” Mr McChesney, owner of Cahill Brothers shoes shop in Newry which has been in business in the city for over a century, says he thinks any post-Brexit border will turn the city into a “wasteland”.

“I think it will be the equivalent of Trump’s wall,” he said.  “I think it will cut us off from our hinterland.”

For some, the Whitehall paper failed to deliver any concrete answers on how trade and travel in post-Brexit Northern Ireland will operate. Well-known photographer Mark Pearce, called for reassurance and real answers from the government.

“Give us answers, let us know what’s happening,” he said.

“We’re up in the air. We don’t know what’s going on or how it’s going to affect us,” he said