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Brexit: Irish border traders concern for future as deal looms

Traders living on both sides of the Irish border remain sceptical of what life will look like after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

Many business owners that make up the small communities dotted across border towns and villages in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland say they have been left in the dark over how their commercial lives will function post-Brexit.

On any average day, workers, lorry-drivers, buses, agricultural vehicles and parents with schoolchildren pass through the invisible border without a thought.

For border towns like Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone and Emyvale in Co Monaghan - which are just five miles apart - a free-flowing and frictionless border is crucial for business.

Les Vajner, who runs a photography business in Aughnacloy with his wife Emilia who owns a flower shop, said: "We have a huge amount of traffic passing through here which we rely on. Almost half of my wife's business comes from the Monaghan area or from people travelling to Donegal.

"If that slows down she is very much afraid of what could happen, not only her but other businesses in the area.

"If you look at the car registration plates in Aughnacloy half of them are southern but any border area is the same.

"We don't know what will happen if trade slows down, she will have to close her business. She has just started and things are going okay but we are heavily reliant on cross-border trade."

Jason Morrison runs Drop Inn charity shop in Aughancloy and works with youth groups north and south of the border.

The youth worker, who voted to remain, said it has been hard for businesses in the area to plan for the future.

"The majority of our trade would be southerners because they have to travel through here to get to the Ballygawley roundabout and then on to the motorway so they stop in the town," he said.

"I'm worried about what this deal will look like because if it's difficult for people to come through here then they will stop coming and shops will close, leaving the town dead.

"But without concrete details it's hard to know what will happen.

"No one has given information to people living in border towns or consulted with them. They don't know how this impacts us.

"Brexit is getting closer so they have to get everything out there, tell us when it's happening, how and why and maybe there won't be as much fear."

Fives miles away in Emyvale in the Republic, traders are also concerned about the future.

Kevin Maguire, a pharmacist who travels from Belfast to Co Monaghan every day, said one of his biggest concerns is getting medication for his patients.

He spends an hour travelling to work which involves crossing the border - a journey he describes as a "simple commute".

"If there is any border or difficulties I would have to move house," he said.

He added that without a secure Brexit deal prescriptions and pharmacists will be effected.

"A lot of prescription medication is procured through the UK so if there's no proper deal secured there could be a medication shortage and we will have to get new supply routes.

"There could also be problems of bringing medication across the border.

"When I qualified in the north and wanted to work in the south all I had to do was go to Dublin and have my forms registered which took a month. If the UK doesn't have a bilateral agreement, any graduates from the north will be treated as a foreign applicants so instead of filling out a form it will take a training period of between three months to three years.

"Dublin doesn't have a lot of pharmacists qualifying every year so a lot of graduates from the north work in the south but from next year they don't know if that will happen."

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