One of my old college friends who has spent her life working as an illustrator and nurse in Northern Ireland recently wrote the following email to him, which highlights some of her personal concerns regarding the future.
I believe that it’s better that we work towards bringing people together than putting up barriers between them to keep them apart. That way the image many people have of the stupid, evil foreigners, “taking advantage of our country’s privileges” won’t be beaten. Other people, generally, are just like us as human beings. We should delight in and enjoy the difference.
The founding thrust behind the European Economic Community (later to become the EU) was to stop another war. If people know each other, share each other’s customs and culture, have certain common laws and arrangements then they are less likely to kill each other. Naked Nationalism is the enemy and it thrives when there are borders.
In today’s global world it is necessary to be able to trade with the likes of China and America from a position of size and strength, just as Spar and Mace help the small shopkeepers survive. That is best done from within the EU and at the same time each country can enjoy the advantages of full trade within the EU.
We are Europeans – that’s a fact of history. How nice it was to travel to Europe as full members of the EU without the need for separate passports and having to suffer other restrictions. To know you would receive free medical help. To benefit from the protection of laws that recognise you as a citizen. It just made sense.
For Northern Ireland leaving the EU has very special and specific dangers. The spectre of a border on the island of Ireland has potentially dangerous consequences if great care is not taken.
The situation in Ireland remains difficult as Brexit takes effect on trade between the mainland UK and Northern Ireland. In effect, there is now a border down the Irish Sea, massive increases in red tape and unanswered questions as to how the borders across Ireland will function safely.
Back when we were at college together in the late 1970’s, I had always wanted to visit my friend and her family in Belfast. At that time, because of ‘The Troubles’ I was advised not to as it wasn’t safe. Too dangerous! Since then the border posts have been removed and Ireland had become a safer more stable place. For both countries being part of the EU was of inestimable value.’