N Ire­land’s former ‘bad­lands’ brace for Bri­tain’s EU vote

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

CROSS­MA­GLEN, North­ern Ire­land: For the Catholic res­i­dents of North­ern Ire­land vil­lage Cross­ma­glen, the prospect of Bri­tain’s only land bor­der with the Euro­pean Union ris­ing around them to ob­struct ac­cess to the Ir­ish Re­pub­lic is un­think­able.

But barely two decades af­ter a peace deal brought down the mil­i­tary check­points that di­vided the two parts of Ire­land, opin­ion polls show grow­ing sup­port in Bri­tain to leave the Euro­pean Union in a ref­er­en­dum due by the end of 2017. It’s un­clear if that would bring back the kind of bor­der con­trols that Ire­land’s deputy leader re­cently dis­missed as ab­hor­rent, but any changes would have pro­found ef­fects in the former bor­der“bad­lands”Bri­tain long strug­gled to con­trol.

The big­gest fear for many in North­ern Ire­land is that new bor­der re­stric­tions could reen­er­gise Catholic Ir­ish na­tion­al­ist de­mands for a united Ire­land, which helped fuel three decades of vi­o­lence with the Bri­tish author­i­ties and mainly Protes­tant union­ists who wanted it to re­main part of Bri­tain. At least 3,600 peo­ple were killed in the“The Trou­bles”.

“You’d be bring­ing things back 30 years,” said Cathal Short, a busi­ness­man walk­ing in the main square of Cross­ma­glen, a pre­dom­i­nantly Catholic vil­lage where many shops ac­cept eu­ros along­side ster­ling and streets are strewn with bunt­ing for Gaelic foot­ball, the Re­pub­lic’s most pop­u­lar sport.

“I think it would be an ab­so­lute dis­as­ter for here.” Many see the EU, with its guar­an­tees of civil rights and free move­ment of goods, work­ers and cap­i­tal as a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in se­cur­ing the peace in 1998. On many prac­ti­cal lev­els the EU has united Ire­land.

A Bri­tish exit would de­prive North­ern Ire­land, one of Bri­tain’s poor­est re­gions, of 8.4 per­cent of its eco­nomic out­put in di­rect EU fund­ing, ac­cord­ing to an Open Univer­sity re­port. An Ir­ish think tank, mean­while, said UK-Ir­ish trade would fall 20 per­cent, with bor­der towns hit hard­est.

How­ever op­po­nents of EU mem­ber­ship have ar­gued the EU is a drain on over­all Bri­tish resources and that Brus­sels bu­reau­cracy ham­pers small and medi­um­sized busi­nesses. An EU exit would also cre­ate a “sig­nif­i­cant psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact” in the bor­der area, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by a com­mit­tee in the Ir­ish par­lia­ment, which warned it would be“po­lit­i­cally desta­bil­is­ing”.

Martina An­der­son, a Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment for the largest Ir­ish na­tion­al­ist party Sinn Fein - and na­tive of an­other bor­der area to the west - has said North­ern Ire­land should con­sider re­fus­ing to ac­cept a Bri­tish EU exit. “Bri­tain wants to pull out of Europe, the dis­cus­sion we need to have is that Bri­tain pull out of Ire­land,” she said. “The de­ci­sion that is go­ing to be made in England should not be bind­ing on the north.”


The only ma­jor re­cent opin­ion poll on at­ti­tudes to a Bri­tish exit in North­ern Ire­land, com­mis­sioned by Danske Bank, showed that 58 per­cent of the 1.8 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion were against leav­ing, one of the high­est lev­els in the United King­dom.

Only 16 per­cent were in fa­vor of a Bri­tish exit, or Brexit. The pop­u­la­tion is roughly evenly split be­tween tra­di­tional Catholic and Protes­tant com­mu­ni­ties. There have been no ma­jor stud­ies to break down sup­port for an exit along those lines, and ma­jor union­ist par­ties have not an­nounced of­fi­cial po­si­tions. — Reuters

GEVGELIJA: Mi­grants and refugees wait for cross­ing the Greek-Mace­do­nian bor­der near Gevgelija yes­ter­day. The flow of refugees and other mi­grants from Turkey to Greece is ex­pected to con­tinue at a rate of 5,000 daily this win­ter, ac­cord­ing to the UN refugee agency UNHCR. — AFP

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