The latest study shows Brexit is already impacting communities in the border area.
Queen’s University Belfast and the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) have published a new report today which has found that Brexit is already having an effect on local communities in the Central Border Region of Ireland/Northern Ireland.
The report, based on survey and focus group data from a study conducted in the summer of 2017, presents eight core findings that are highly relevant to the current stage of the Brexit negotiations.
The research was conducted and authored by Dr Katy Hayward from the Centre for International Borders Research at Queen’s University Belfast, who is among a group of leading academics from the University working on the subject of Brexit and its potential impact on the island of Ireland.
“This study is the first to explore the anticipated effects of Brexit specifically on the Central Border Region, which is the region currently most exposed to risks rising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU,” Dr Hayward noted, “Socially, politically, economically and in very practical ways – people living closest to the border will be the ones who feel the effects of any change to the nature of the border most acutely and they are already anticipating what this might mean.”
The study incorporated responses from across the eight local authority areas of the Central Border Region including: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon; Cavan; Donegal; Fermanagh and Omagh; Leitrim; Mid Ulster; Monaghan and Sligo. Respondents ranged in ages from 16 to over 85 and came from a range of occupational and community backgrounds.
Shane Campbell, CEO of ICBAN, commented: “We were not seeking to revisit the Leave/Remain debate in this study but rather to get a better understanding of the views of people whose voices are otherwise rarely heard in the discussion about the post-Brexit future for the Region.”
The report not only reveals the types of concern that are felt by people on both sides of the border regarding Brexit, but also demonstrates the levels of integration that currently exist in the Region. It finds that ‘leave’ voters in Northern Ireland are just as likely as ‘remain’ voters to cross the border regularly and to enjoy the benefits of an open border as it currently exists.
One of the most striking findings from the report is that, although much cross-border movement today is as a consequence of EU membership, most respondents associate the open border with the success of the peace process. A consequence of this is that many respondents associate any change at all to the status of the border as being a backwards step in the peace process.
Respondents on both sides of the border described how Brexit is already having an impact on their lives; for some it is in the decisions they are making about where to locate their homes or business, for others it is in the ‘reawakening’ of memories of the hard border of the past.
“So many of our respondent expressed such a deep and genuine sense of frustration, vulnerability, and voicelessness in the face of this impending but as yet uncertain change. It is imperative that these concerns are heard and addressed now, at this critical time in the negotiations and by all political representatives in the border region,” said Dr Hayward.
Mr Campbell added: “It is very good that local authorities around the border are leading the way in identifying these shared community concerns; it is now in the hands of the governments and the EU to respond to these clearly-articulated challenges.”
The report, Bordering on Brexit: The views of local communities in the Central Border Region of Ireland/Northern Ireland, is available to view/download from Queen’s University Belfast’s Brexit Resource Guide here and the ICBAN website here.