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Countdown to Brexit: Businesses and communities on the border share their views

UTV reports from Derry, Enniskillen and Warrenpoint. Credit: UTV

Over the past week, UTV has hit the road to go directly to the businesses, communities and people who are watching and waiting for MPs to chart a course for leaving the EU.

In the first of three stops across Northern Ireland, Vicki Hawthorne traveled to the north west to speak to businesses which depend on cross-border trade.

Flemings, on the border between counties Londonderry and Donegal, has been manufacturing agricultural machinery for decades.

It serves farms on both sides of the border, but the unknown of what’s happening after March has been making things difficult.

“It’s very hard for us to make decisions as to what we should be doing in the future,” said Jonathan Lecky.

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“Where we should be locating our premises, how we should be expanding, where we should be looking for customers … all the uncertainty is only bad for business.”

The view at Fleming is that, whatever agreement Westminster comes up with, access to people and goods must be protected.

Mr Lecky went on: “Twenty, twenty five years ago, we employed 15 people in this site, now we’re employing 115 people, and part of that has been the ease that we can do business across the border, so as far as we’re concerned our official position would be - try and have an agreement as close to what we had as possible”.

Moving south to Co Fermanagh and the luxury Lough Erne Resort, which has hosted presidents and prime ministers and is just 15 miles from the border.

General Manager William Kirby said he doesn’t see “any particular risk” for the hospitality sector there.

He said: “We’ve worked very hard at our brand and we have a huge following - people come to Fermanagh for Fermanagh, and people come to Lough Erne for Lough Erne.

“I’m sure the politicians will sort this whole thing out, but we’ll continue to do what we do.”

And over at the farmer’s mart, farmers said they believe life and business will go, on whether it’s deal or no deal with the EU two months from now.

Auctioneer Clive Funston said: “By the end of March I think we will be okay - people will still need to eat meat and drink milk.

“I don’t see a big change in prices at all, at the minute prices are very good.”

On to south Armagh, where the O'Hanlon family’s busy lives rely on an open border.

Caóilfíonn is an artist who works in a craft hub in Dundalk, Co Louth, and Brexit and the impact it may have on criss-crossing the border is never far from her thoughts.

“I could cross the border seven or eight times a day,” she said.

“The first time I cross it is this morning, going in to work, then again obviously coming home at lunch time, then probably back in the evening and back again, that’s at least four times.

“Then John’s mummy lives just over the border, so we might call to her.

“When you’re a busy mum and you’re doing football runs, school runs and shopping and whatever else, how are we going to do that if we’re going to have stops?”

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Caóilfíonn, her family and friends are trying to picture what the border could look like in just a few months time.

The uncertainty is causing genuine worry for many of the people living close to and on it, and the hope is that the politicians will focus on that.