Since the the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in June 2016 produced a result in favour of leaving, Brexit has meant a lot of uncertainty on the island of Ireland.
Based here in Belleek just inside County Fermanagh and Northern Ireland, we are going to be leaving the EU along with England, Scotland and Wales.
However, incredibly now 26 months on from the result of the referendum we are still no wiser as to how the issue of the Irish border will be dealt with. Talk of hard and soft Brexits leave me perplexed. It has become apparent that the UK government cannot reach a consensus amongst themselves and that has left the populations of the UK, Ireland and wider EU uncertain. The EU are awaiting a definitive proposal from the UK and the Irish government have a font row seat as the saga continues.
History has shown that decisions concerning a border on the island of Ireland have had negative impacts on the people, trade and freedom of movement. I hope that the dealmakers are cognisant of this fact. Peace on the island of Ireland was hard to achieve and in the interests of everyone its continuation must be paramount when. As Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister said “Borders are invisible from space”.
Personally, I voted to remain in the EU. The EU is by no means perfect but in my opinion it has done more good than harm on the Island of Ireland. The EU has provided a source of funding to the Border Regions which has reinforced the Peace Process. Will the UK government pick up the shortfall and continue to provide such funding for building infrastructure and improving community relations in Northern Ireland? I am not convinced.
Since June 2016 we have regularly seen members of the UK government jockeying for position and talking up global trade deals post-Brexit. That is understandable but if they cannot find a workable proposal for the Irish border then it does not bode well for their negotiations with potential trading partners and in particular a certain Mr. Donald Trump.
Theresa May the UK Prime Minister was here in Belleek two weeks ago. A flying visit to Belleek Pottery was well choreographed with plenty of media coverage. Incredibly it was her first visit to the Irish Border since becoming Prime Minister. Unfortunately she was not available for one of our Turf Bog Tours. Had she come along I would have asked for her vision on how we will get our turf home from the bog in County Donegal post Brexit. Likewise, will Bailey (our sprocker spaniel) require a pet passport on her regular evening walk over the fields and across the border? These questions may appear flippant but they are good examples of the need for clarification on what form the border will take, trading arrangements and freedom of movement for people and goods.
October is the deadline for the UK withdrawal treaty deal to be agreed and 29th March is Brexit Day. We will watch on in hope.