Much of Northern Ireland’s trade to mainland Britain goes through Dublin, writes Brian Wilson.
I was in Belfast this week for a meeting of the Board of Trade. It’s always a pleasure these days to visit this energetic, creative city which is enjoying the well-earned fruits of normalisation.
Northern Ireland is full of excellent companies with a strong emphasis on exporting. This is driven by the fact their own market is so small they need to sell into the Republic, Britain and why not the world beyond?
Yet there is a real cloud over Northern Ireland and it is called Brexit. On this side of the water, we tend to discuss “the border” largely in terms of security.
You cannot have a hard border because people would start blowing it up.
For Northern Ireland businesses (and jobs), there is another dimension. For example, two-thirds of produce is exported to Britain via the Dublin to Holyhead route. The logistics are incredibly tight and any delays at a border within Ireland would have massive implications.
Business within the island of Ireland has become very closely integrated as the border has effectively disappeared. Now all that is in jeopardy because of the failure to find a Brexit deal which guarantees the status quo.
The role of the DUP in rejecting that deal is bewildering by any rational standard but then, you are reminded, not everything in Northern Ireland has changed. The demand there is not for a second referendum but simply for a deal which underpins the peace and prosperity that has been created over the past 20 years.
The DUP notwithstanding, it is the least they deserve – and any MP who pays lip-service to that principle should also vote for it.