Brexit uncertainty is causing fear, warn NI border town residents
Uncertainty around the Irish border following the UK’s departure from the EU is causing fear, residents of a frontier town have warned.
Warrenpoint hosts one of Northern Ireland’s busiest ports which handled 3.6 million tonnes of cargo in 2018, while fishermen land tens of thousands of pounds worth of catch at the marina.
From pleasure sailors at the Co Down town’s waterfront to shoppers on the streets and workers in the shops, there was concern on Wednesday over the UK’s acknowledgement there would be new customs checks for cross-border trade.
Proposals from Boris Johnson’s government on Wednesday suggested that most checks could be carried out electronically but a small number of physical checks would be required either at business premises or at points on the supply chain.
However there was fear of the unknown in Warrenpoint where a plan to sell the town’s former police station, once bombed during the Troubles, was halted due to uncertainty over Brexit.
And there were questions over how the Government proposals would work given the length of the 310-mile border in Ireland, and its complexity, across privately owned land in some places and waterways in others.
Many in the town were wary of any form of new checks, referring to long queues at the border in the past due to security border posts which were removed in 2005.
Local man Tony Poland said he could simply sail a small boat the short distance across Carlingford Lough to the Irish Republic.
He was adamant that physical check points on the border should never return.
“We should never go back to it,” he told the PA news agency.
“Half the people from around here work in Dublin, they cross the border every day.
“People do not want customs checks.”
Pat O’Malley, who is originally from Co Mayo and moved to the town when he married his wife, said he would be strongly against uniformed check points on the border.
“It is all a bit of a mess really,” he said.
Emma McCann from Newry, who runs a fast food van in Warrenpoint, said she is concerned about the situation, adding she does not understand much of the detail, and what the implications will be for her life and business.
A retired man, who did not wish to be named, said he feels the uncertainty over what will happen is causing fear in the area.
He sails a pleasure boat in the area and said there has been no guidance on any potential restrictions which may be placed on where his boat can go.
“I find the whole thing a bit difficult to understand, it seems to go from one thing to another, if anything I have pulled back from it, sick to the teeth with it,” he said.
“One of my concerns will be things like going to the airport, most people here would fly from Dublin, it’s just an hour’s drive compared to an hour and 20 minutes to Belfast, how would customs checks affect that.”
Meanwhile Polish-born Andrzej Filipczuk said he still believes Brexit will not happen.
“I’m completely against it, I still believe it won’t happen,” said the shop worker.