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Northern Ireland is trying to live with ‘the negative consequences of Brexit’

Deli Lites specializes in the distribution of meals such as sandwiches, distributed to supermarkets in the UK and Europe. When Brexit happened, we had to make changessays the entrepreneur.

Brexit has forced entrepreneur Brian Reid to adjust his business. He now says he is in favor of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

By leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom took with it Northern Ireland, which is a region of the country. However, the Republic of Ireland to the south is still a member of the Union.

To avoid the imposition of a land border on this island marked by years of communal violence, Brussels and London have agreed on a protocol ensuring that customs measures are applied before certain goods from the United Kingdom enter Ireland, whether north or south.

Warrenpoint Harbour, Northern Ireland

Some UK goods arriving at the port of Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland, must face trade barriers.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

As a result, Brian Reid explains that he has abandoned some of his British suppliers and has forged more links with companies based in the Republic of Ireland.

And he would not be the only one to have made this kind of decision. According to Queen’s University Belfast political scientist Katy Hayward, available data shows significant growth in trade between North and South.

Belfast at the heart of a political storm

This protocol, which is still not fully implemented, is at the heart of significant political tensions in Northern Ireland.

Sign of its opposition to this agreement, the main unionist party in Belfast refuses to participate in the formation of a government.

The activities of the regional parliament have therefore not resumed normally since the elections at the beginning of May, which resulted in the historic victory of Sinn Féin, a party in favor of the reunification of Ireland.

According to political scientist Katy Hayward, unionists fear that with the application of the protocol the distance between Northern Ireland and Great Britain continues to grow and their place within the United Kingdom continues to decline in importance.

The UK flag

The United Kingdom flag flies in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

A finding that echoes the words of Paul Berry, a Unionist municipal councilor in the Armagh region south of Belfast.

A sign of her belonging to the United Kingdom, a sign bearing the image of Queen Elizabeth, whose Platinum Jubilee will be celebrated this week, is proudly displayed in front of her office. This border in the Irish Sea further cut us off from our United Kingdom. […] This must gohe says.

Beyond the constitutional arguments, the adviser evokes economic consequences to denounce the protocol.

Paul Berry, Councilor for County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Unionist elected Paul Berry denounces the protocol which he accuses of contributing to further isolate Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

If the agreement benefits some business people, Paul Berry ensures that small Northern Irish traders are struggling. If you walk into a shop and ask for a product, some will tell you that they have stopped selling it since they can no longer bring it in from Englandhe said.

Paul Berry proposes that the protocol should at the very least be amended so that the authorities tax goods intended for export to the European Union, but not those which must be consumed locally in Northern Ireland.

A poster with a slogan on the side of the road

A poster promoting Irish unity, installed on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Showdown between London and Brussels

Faced with the dissatisfaction of its unionist allies in Belfast, the British government of Boris Johnson has raised in recent weeks the possibility of not respecting certain aspects of this agreement which it has nevertheless signed. An idea to which Brussels responded with criticism and skepticism.

The only territory where the United Kingdom and the European Union directly rub shoulders, Northern Ireland, whose inhabitants had nevertheless rejected Brexit by 56% during the 2016 referendum, therefore finds itself at the heart of a conflict between two powers greater than itself.

Northern Ireland exemplifies the difficult decisions and negative consequences of Brexit. »

A quote from Katy Hayward, professor at Queen’s University Belfast
Katy Hayward, professor at Queen's University in Northern Ireland

Professor Katy Hayward of Queen’s University says Northern Ireland must deal with the consequences of Brexit.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Declan Gormley, a Belfast-area entrepreneur who grew up when his region was rocked by bouts of violence, says policymakers need to be careful in their handling of the file. Peace is fragile in Northern Ireland, it won’t take much to trigger a reactionhe warns.

Declan Gormley, whose company exports air conditioners all over Europe, supports the protocol in its current form.

Entrepreneur Declan Gormley

Entrepreneur Declan Gormley reminds us that peace is fragile in Northern Ireland.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Contrary to what many loyalists fear, the contractor even believes that by being both within the United Kingdom and retaining European markets, the protocol could encourage Northern Ireland to remain attached to London.

A prosperous Northern Ireland, which attracts more investment, would be much less tempted to leave the UK for a united Irelandhe says.

But for the moment, he especially deplores the political instability and the uncertainty created by the debates around this thorny issue.

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