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Larne traders wary for future, but Brexit debate has become a turn-off

Shop owners say they have yet to feel impact of impending Brexit

By Rebecca Black

The people of a port town that is home to one of the main ferry crossings between here and Britain have "switched off" from the Brexit debate, it has been claimed.

For decades Larne has been one of the main entry points to Northern Ireland for passengers and freight, with its position just over 30 miles across the Irish Sea from Scotland.

On a clear day the British coastline is visible from the town, which is part of DUP MP Sammy Wilson's East Antrim constituency.

In recent years Belfast and Warrenpoint have lightened the loads coming into Larne.

However, it remains one of the region's main harbours and is currently the only approved port of entry for livestock imports.

In the event of a border down the Irish Sea, those existing checks could potentially be extended to include meat and dairy produce.

Speculation over this possibility was heightened earlier this month when Larne port was one of a small number of locations Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab visited during a flying visit.

However, as debate over Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal with the European Union dominated news headlines, many people in Larne said they had switched off.

Iris Brown, owner of a flower shop on Main Street, summed up the feeling of many others in the town.

She explained she had stopped following the minutiae of the political debate, but at the same time was concerned about what might happen.

"I have switched off, but I'm also worried. I'm just not sure what is going to happen, and we won't know until it happens."

Ms Brown's flowers come from a wholesaler who sources them from within and without the European Union.

"They come in from places such as Israel and Colombia as well as Europe," she said. "But in terms of my trade, it is mostly local."

Ellis Cahoon, who runs a flooring and bathroom shop, said the Brexit debate reminded him in some ways of the headlines before the new century.

"It is a bit like the millennium, everyone was worried about what was going to happen, but then nothing happened," he said.

"I get a lot of my products from Scotland and the south of Ireland, but I know ultimately a lot of stuff from the wholesalers comes from overseas.

"They don't seem too worried, they are not stocking up just in case, which they would have the capacity to do if they felt they needed to."

Mr Cahoon said his trade also remained steady. "Most of my customers are local and I haven't noticed any change," he said.

"And I am the same, life is going on as normal."

Ronnie Brown, a fruit and vegetable shop owner, simply said: "We'll just have to wait and see."

Larne Ulster Unionist councillor Andy Wilson, who works in the office of local MLA John Stewart in the centre of the town, said most people had switched off from the Brexit debate due to the jargon and uncertainty.

"Brexit is not exactly a major conversation starter in the pubs and clubs and breakfast tables of Larne," he added.

"In fact, quite the contrary. People have long ago become lost in the detail and jargon of backstops and frictionless borders.

"However, whether you voted Leave or Remain, no here wants to see extra restrictions on trade between here and GB."

Belfast Telegraph

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