The President of the Buncrana Chamber of Commerce has said that a feeling of ‘uncertainty’ about the economic future of Inishowen has been the main local characteristic of the UK vote in the referendum on Europe.
In just nine days, on June 23, Britain will go to the polls to vote in what is the most significant political question for the UK since it voted to join what was then known as the EEC in 1972. The campaign in Britain has degenerated into a bitter one and has even caused a major realignment of former political opposites for and against Britain leaving the 28 nation bloc that makes up the European Union.
The visit of two former British Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and John Major to Derry last week to urge a vote for the UK to stay in the EU was a huge indicator that the ‘Remain’ campaign is acutely aware of the potential impact that Northern Ireland votes could have on the overall result.
With the Republic of Ireland being Britain’s largest trading partners and with Northern Ireland constituting the only UK land border within the EU the ramifications of an exit from Europe are both economically and politically profound for the Donegal-Derry hinterland.
Ryan Stewart told the ‘Journal’: “The major concern is just simply about what is going to happen. The are major questions about the border and the effect that may have on freedom of movement between Derry and Inishowen.”
“Another aspect of the UK exiting the European Union will be an immediate slump in Sterling.
“We have enjoyed an uplift in recent times from a strong Sterling rate which has obviously been good for our traders,” he said.
One outcome of the UK leaving the EU could also be the imposition of a border which would impact negatively on trade, travel, tourism and would also impinge on cross-border workers.
Mr. Stewart continued: “This could result in job losses which Inishowen and especially Buncrana cannot afford.
“The area is buoyant at the moment with visitors, but the reappearance of a physical border could put locals as well as tourists off from crossing the border in either direction.”
Mr Stewart also contended that since Inishowen is perenially underinvested in from the Dublin government that the overall all situation may have even deeper impact.
“I know that the Irish Government are urging the UK to remain in Europe but this is being done at a macro level so this will harm a small border town,” he said.
The chamber president also said he believes the outcome of the June 23 poll will be a close one and that Northern Ireland votes could be a pivotal factor in the final decision of the UK to stay or to go.
He said: “Northern Ireland has a land border with the UK and the million votes or so in the North could swing the balance.
Some of the latest opinion polls are claiming that around 55 per cent of Britons plan to vote to leave the European Union.
One such poll published on Monday in ‘The Independent’ newspaper stated a 10 per cent swing towards voters favouring a departure from the European political structures.
The referendum was initiated after British Prime Minister David Cameron made a pledge to hold one if he was successful in winning the 2015 British General Election.
UK membership of the EU began on January 1, 1973. The development of a standardised sytem of laws since the foundation of the European model in 1957 is something which some British politicians have claimed removes soverrignty from the UK parlimaent’s decision making powers.