What could Britain leaving the EU mean for the North of Ireland?
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What could Britain leaving the EU mean for the North of Ireland?

THE UK has voted to leave the European Union in the Brexit referendum by a majority of 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

In the North of Ireland, the result was at odds with England. The people voted to remain by a majority of 56 per cent to 44 per cent, but regardless of what they wanted, Britain will now separate from the EU in due course.

Overall, 440,707 people in Northern Ireland voted to Remain in the EU and 349,442 to Leave, but what impact will the overall decision have on life in Northern Ireland?

Speaking before the referendum result, Home Secretary Theresa May, who is one of the favorites to succeed David Cameron as PM, said it was "inconceivable that a vote for Brexit would not have a negative impact on the North/South Border, bringing cost and disruption to trade and to people’s lives.”

While acknowledging the British-Irish Common Travel Area pre-dated the EU, she said that if the UK pulled out of the EU, this would lead to border checks and higher prices along the six counties from Derry to Armagh.

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However, Mrs May's Cabinet colleague Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary and a prominent Brexit advocate, has said there would be no need for border controls with Ireland, also citing the Common Travel Area which has existed between the two countries since 1923.

While airlines and ferry operators require passport and ID checks for security reasons, the Common Travel Area means Irish citizens are not obliged to undergo any visa checks on entering the United Kingdom, which has been in place since before the EU existed.

Campaigning for Remain before the vote, Mr Kenny claimed the EU’s new western boundary would run from Derry to Dundalk, and mean the end of a border between Ireland and Britain, replacing it with a new border between the UK and the remaining 27 member states of the EU.

Now that Brexit has happened, the decision by the British electorate has prompted Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to call for a referendum on Irish reunification.

"The British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union and I do believe that there is a democratic imperative for a 'border poll' to be held.

"We are now in unchartered waters, nobody really knows what is going to happen. The implications for all of us on the island of Ireland are absolutely massive. This could have very profound implications for our economy," he said speaking to RTÉ

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However, the DUP’s Edwin Poots has welcomed the UK's vote to leave the EU, speaking to ITV, stating it is “good news for the people of Northern Ireland”.

 

For the people living in the North, for now there are more questions than answers.

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Former Eurovision Song Contest winner Niamh Kavanagh who represented Ireland on two occasions in the competition and now lives in Carrickfergus, County Antrim in Northern Ireland gave her reaction on Brexit to the Irish Post.

"For someone like myself in the entertainment industry who travels, what the ramifications are it's very hard to know. I voted for remain but I think that's because I grew up being part of the European Union. I think the biggest concern right now is whether the decision throws a lot of people into  business-wise."

Ms Kavanagh also voiced her concerns over the possible return of border controls "I have lived through border checks. I don't imagine that we're going to see the level of security that we've seen in the past. I suspect we might see some sort of customs and excise checks. It's such a unique position that North of Ireland is in. I'm not overly keen to see that [borders] reinstated again," added Ms Kavanagh.

Writing on Facebook, Seamas O'Reilly from Derry, voiced concerns shared by many over the impact Brexit could have on Northern Ireland's peace process:

Much of the Good Friday Agreement was predicated on free movement between north and south, and cross-border bodies that reinforced a soft-union of the two states, just enough to ameliorate nationalists but nothing close enough to a united Ireland to antagonise unionists. (Actually an awful lot of the legal framework for the GFA was strongly underpinned by existing EU laws, so constitutionally it may itself now need to be entirely re-ratified)."