The four-month countdown begins until Britain officially leaves the European Union. But you already knew that and as the saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun!”. At this stage of the game most people are sick to death of hearing about the Irish border (I know I am), whether it will be a hard border, a soft border or something in between. As a young girl living on the border between the North and South of Ireland, I dread the thought of potentially having to bring my passport along just to do a spot of shopping in Penney’s, what a catastrophe!
Let me throw some fascinating facts your way before we get in to the nitty gritty -when I look out my window I can see the Omeath Road. To the naked eye, there is no obvious borderline. There aren’t any obvious physical differences either, no markings, just speed signs in kilometres per hour; and the grass doesn’t appear to be any greener on the other side. For me to get to Omeath or even the gorgeous Carlingford (Ireland’s own Gold Coast or as we know it the “Cooley Peninsula” which is also famous for its oyster farms and medieval buildings) it takes 11 minutes, that’s just 7 miles.
All joking aside, it’s clear that the so called “Government” don’t know what to do with the Irish border. Neither does Michel Barnier. Theresa May is feeling the pressure from her own party, the DUP and everyone else – each response is usually along the lines of “the common travel area has been around since the early nineteen twenties so we don’t want to change that”.
We are stuck right bang in the middle of this regardless if you are from the North or the South and it will affect everyone. Many of you reading this were probably very young when the Good Friday Agreement (1998) was signed, some of you might remember the peace it brought to the Island of Ireland, after years of violence. One thing is for sure, no one wants a return to violence especially students like us, who were born in good times!
The stability of Ireland now depends on whether the United Kingdom and the EU can negotiate a future trading relationship. However, this ultimately is where the problems start to arise. If the UK decides to leave the single market and the customs union, we’re sort of in a pickle. Basically, we’ll be taking a step backward and potentially re-introducing border checks, and paying additional custom charges on our ASOS purchases, to name but a few. Mrs May and various UK politicians have promised all along that there will be no hard border,‘no physical infrastructure at the Irish border’. This sounds fantastic but what we all want to know is how?
Honestly, I have no solution myself to this contentious issue or what sort of border should be put in place. I am quite happy with how things are now – a trip to Omeath for petrol, a trip to Aldi in Dundalk or just the freedom of movement the border community in Newry enjoy. However, the harsh reality is that it’s going to have to change. Famous for our sense of humour in Northern Ireland, we try our hardest to make light of the situation in spite of the severity of Brexit and the potential supply issues for medicines, food etc. Some people have suggested everything from an electronic border, to drones, and even to painting the border.
(What about the suggested border in the sea, looks a bit ludicrous right?)
One of my all-time favourite suggestions is to allow Northern Ireland to enter the Eurovision. We could write a song about the Good Friday Agreement and pull on everyone’s emotions. Right now you are probably thinking “this girl has actually lost it”, I agree! But my blog is about “bordering on insanity” – so it only seems right that I go slightly insane whilst writing about it.
In all seriousness though, it might just help the British Government understand why we really cannot go back to the old days! Nobody wants to bring back thirty years of border checkpoints, customs clearance, violence and smuggling.
As it stands there has still been no agreement made, all I can say is that Brexit is good at winging it. To use the words of the Madonna song, “Borderline, feels like I am going to lose my mind………”
Alannah Stephens is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @AlannahStephens and on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/alannah-stephens-ab1525127/