Our Future Our Choice’s DOIRE FINN thinks the future looks bleak for Northern Ireland if Boris Johnson presses ahead with his no-deal Brexit plans. But, as she explains, there is still time to change course to save the Good Friday Agreement.
Boris Johnson today has finally come to Northern Ireland. Or I should say last night, when he dined with his confidence and supply partners in the DUP before meeting with anyone else. I’d like to believe that his promises of impartiality in relation to Northern Ireland are honest, but I can’t help thinking that this is not the case. I’m not alone in my scepticism.
It’s difficult to believe that any kind of impartiality exists, mainly because of the £1 billion of barreled pork the DUP is chewing on. As the last stop on his tour, you might be inclined (if you were charitable) to think Johnson’s attitude is one of saving the best until last, but young people living here are deeply suspicious of his motives. Since becoming prime minister, he has flaunted the idea of a no-deal Brexit as though it were something to be proud of, and hailed it as the glorious solution to any negotiating problems we have faced in the past. The reality for the people living here is starkly different – and this is a reality that Johnson clearly does not understand.
A recent report from Stormont’s Department for Finance said that as many as 40,000 jobs could be lost as a result of a no-deal Brexit, and this is just the beginning. With an invisible border that stretches over 310 miles, sees between 23,000 – 30,000 workers passing through it seamlessly and over 208 crossings between the North and South of Ireland, employment is not the only thing that is set to be lost.
While Johnson claims that the UK government will never construct a hard border between North and South, he is well aware that this will not be the reality come November 1st. A hard border resulting from a no-deal Brexit threatens the ability for people to live their daily lives. It threatens the ability for young people to work freely across the island that they call home, and, most importantly, it threatens the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
As Boris set forth to meet most of our main parties without a thought for the young people living here, he claimed to attach huge importance to both the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. But as we know, with our new prime minister words come cheap. In deciding to hurtle us towards no deal, he has lost the faith of the young people living here who grew up in a time blessed by peace and prosperity.
His attitude not only shows his lack of compassion and knowledge of Northern Ireland, but further emphasises that his personal goals and self-image are worth more to him than the futures of young people in the region. In reaffirming his commitment to the DUP, the only major party in Northern Ireland who did not sign up to the agreement, he has also shown clearly that his priority is party before people.
With time running out and a prime minister determined to drive us off a cliff edge, what can be said for the young people living and working in Northern Ireland? We are set to face job losses, a collapsing economy and the disintegration of the foundations on which our peaceful lives have been founded. The European Union has made clear that they will not renegotiate the backstop, and Boris, with the temperament of a toddler, is refusing to go to the table unless they do. This impasse is reflected in Westminster, where a gridlocked House of Commons has gone into recess until September. The clock is ticking, and the future looks bleak – but there is a solution.
The majority of people in Northern Ireland did not vote to leave the European Union in any form, let alone without a deal, and we must remind our politicians of this. Our farmers deserve better, our businesses deserve better and our communities deserve better. We must stand up and have our voices heard, above the prattle of a man who doesn’t care enough to listen.
– Doire Finn is a campaigner with Our Future Our Choice Northern Ireland.