Locals in port town of Larne ‘have switched off’ from Brexit debate
Larne is one of the main entry points to Northern Ireland for people and freight and is just over 30 miles across the Irish Sea from Britain.
The people of a port town which hosts one of the main ferry crossings between Northern Ireland and Britain have “switched off” from the Brexit debate, locals claim.
For decades Larne has been one of the main entry points to Northern Ireland for people and freight, with its position just over 30 miles across the Irish Sea from Britain.
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On a clear day the Scottish coastline is clearly visible from the town, which is part of Democratic Unionist MP Sammy Wilson’s East Antrim constituency.
In recent years, Belfast and Warrenpoint have lightened the loads coming into the Co Antrim town, however it remains one of the region’s main ports and is currently the only approved port of entry for livestock imports into Northern Ireland.
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 which Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab visited during a flying visit to the region.
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, a flower shop proprietor on Main Street, summed up the feeling of many in the town, explaining 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,” she said.
“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 within the EU as well as outside the EU.
“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 ways about the headlines before the Millennium.
“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 have 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 said.
“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-one in Larne wants to see extra restrictions on trade between here and GB.”