Former Irish Taoiseach, John Bruton has warned that a ‘no deal Brexit’ would be disastrous for the Irish peace process.
“I spent a lot of my life building a reconciliation that enabled a peace process in Northern Ireland to be put in place. That’s going to be utterly disrupted by the barriers that will have to be imposed along the border if Britain leaves the European Union without a satisfactory deal.”
The UK government is now openly making contingency plans for a ‘no-deal’ exit from the European Union, due to the lack of progress during the last six months of negotiations.
One of the sticking points of debate is the Northern Irish border. Although neither the UK or the EU wants a ‘hard border,’ if no deal is agreed upon it is entirely unclear what will happen to the border post-Brexit.
In an interview with Sky News, Bruton claimed that if no deal was negotiated, barriers would inevitably be erected along the Irish border. He warned that this would result in ‘enormous’ disruption, loss of jobs and delays at the border.
Many houses are situated along the border, with children and adults living in the Republic but going to school or working in the North, and vice versa. In some houses people quite literally eat their dinner on one side of the border and go to sleep on the other.
Although it is expected that the CTA (Common Travel Area – an agreement concerning the free movement of people between the Republic of Ireland and the UK) will be kept intact, the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit leaves many people in Ireland on-edge for a host of reasons.
Numerous goods are produced or grown on one side of the border and processed on the other. For example, Guinness is brewed in Dublin, then driven to Belfast to be canned, after which it is driven back across the border to Dublin port for distribution.
There are also concerns over healthcare. At the moment, cancer patients on both sides of the border can receive radiotherapy in Derry’s Altnagelvin Hospital and paediatric cardiac patients from both sides of the border can be treated in Dublin.
With many northern students attending universities south of the border such as Trinity College, UCD and NUIG, and many southern students at QUB and University of Ulster, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could have significant financial implications. Currently fees for Northern Irish students studying in the Republic are around €5000 on average, however for students from outside the EU, fees are generally between €17,000 and €23,000.
These are only some of the concerns on the minds of Northern Irish people as the UK edges ever-nearer to leaving the EU without being close to reaching an agreement. Many questions remain unanswered for people on both sides of the border and frustrations have only been exacerbated by the fact that the Republic had little to do with the UK’s Brexit decision and that Northern Ireland actually voted to remain.
Although at the moment all concerns and potential outcomes are speculative, with no deal on the horizon to reassure people, such concerns are unsurprising.