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Brexit hits Irish border dwellers hard

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 12, 2019 - Duration: 02:00s

Brexit hits Irish border dwellers hard

Eamon Fitzpatrick owns a garage which straddles the Northern Irish and Irish border - and is speaking about why he's "given up" making sense of Brexit uncertainty.

Saskia O'Donoghue reports

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Brexit hits Irish border dwellers hard

It's now just weeks before Britain is due to leave the European Union, but people living and working near the border between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland have given up trying to prepare.

Eamon Fitzpatrick owns a filling station and hardware store that straddles the only land border between the two jurisdictions.

Yes, this curb is the border - which has become the most heated issue of the political crisis.

Eamon fears he may have to change his business and push up prices after Brexit - which could also trigger a revival of smuggling.

But he says he can't really make any solid preparations because he has no idea which scenario will play out when Britain Brexits on March 29.

There are currently three main options - a chaotic exit, a delay, or a smooth transition period.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) OWNER OF FITZPATRICK'S FUEL STATION AND HARDWARE STORE, EAMON FITZPATRICK, SAYING: "Up until these last six or eight months, I took a greater interest in it to see what was going on or trying to follow it.

Now I've kind-of given up on it because you're hearing that many different stories and there's people getting involved in it and in a couple days they're stepping down and there doesn't seem to be any head or tail as to what way it's going." A survey published on Monday (February 11) suggests he's not alone.

It found that over 50 percent of small and medium businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland had not even started making plans.

Ireland's accession to the European bloc in 1973 removed the need for customs checks on the border - and a 1998 peace pact saw security checks disappear.

Since then, the 300 mile border has been all but invisible.

Some cross it a dozen times a day.

It's no surprise then that the effort to prevent the return of a "hard border" has proved the biggest sticking point in Britain's attempts to negotiate a smooth, phased exit from the EU.

If talks fail, and Britain crashes out, Ireland will have little choice but to restore customs checks for the short term at least.

In that worst-case scenario, Eamon says he may have to physically separate the fuel pumps and hardware stores on either side of the border.

He says no one in his situation has been getting any official support and fears that, even on March 29, the shape of the border will be unclear.

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