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The road to becoming a second-class citizen


Sadly, I cannot disagree with Eamonn McCann's warning about Brexit (Comment, May 31).



Sadly, I cannot disagree with Eamonn McCann's warning (Comment, May 31). Like many Ulstermen, I have (small "c") conservative views on macro-economics, world politics and social questions and, as such, I have enjoyed the company of very many (capital "C") Conservatives in London and Brussels over the years.

While I have met some true friends of Ulster among them, a sizable number privately regard our perceived Britishness with deep suspicion, if the truth be told.

Their view on our habit of parading around in bowler hats, flags waving, winding up the "natives", before getting smashed on cheap booze in a field is that of an obscene parody of what "Britishness" means to them - think of how a doctor sees an aromatherapist wearing the white coat and trappings of a medical professional and how angry they get if someone were to choose the "alternative" therapy for a serious medical condition.

It is in this light that I have genuine concerns for our post-Brexit future.

The UK Establishment has decided to make Brexit work through accession to WTO voting rights and (with some luck) a Free Trade Agreement with the EU; and it has been accepted that the Irish land border will become a serious legal stumbling-block to this.

Soothing words about "no hard border" and "frictionless crossing" are well-meant, I'm sure, but meaningless in the legal structures being spoken about. Rumour has it that border crossings have been inspected in recent weeks to assess the viability of schemes on the UK and Irish drawing-boards.

But I think here we all know, and anyone who has any knowledge of this island knows, that border checkpoints, immigration and customs inspection will be politically divisive and practically useless.

They will cost a (prohibitive) fortune and will probably require a standing army of officials, guards and military on both sides of the border, dredging up the darkest instincts of this part of the world.

No, the solution will be much easier, I'm afraid. The hard border will be on the mainland ports and airports. Customs and immigration will be carried out by a handful of unarmed, inexpensive and bored officials in the bottlenecks of Cairnryan, Liverpool, Holyhead and Pembrook, or in airports - miles away from "Bandit Country".

We will need a passport to travel to other parts of the UK and the contents of our luggage and cars could be checked for recent purchases in excess of £300 from outside the UK (and perhaps from outside the EU when returning from mainland UK) or for items for which duty should be paid.

The trade and travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic will be totally unaffected and we will be told to celebrate this "victory".

At a stroke, probably at midnight, some time in 2019, we will become second-class British citizens and cease to have EU citizenship (unless we hold an Irish passport). Can anyone think of a single Northern Ireland politician currently standing for election who would be able to stop this happening?

Try To Look Surprised When It Happens

Belfast and Brussels

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