Eamon Fitzpatrick’s transport and fuel business is located right on the border between County Monaghan in the Irish Republic and County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. Standing in his busy yard with his right foot south of the border and his left foot to the north, he says he faces “mind-boggling” challenges as the clock ticks down to Brexit.
“To set up a new border is a bit ridiculous,” said Mr Fitzpatrick. “It’s stupid …We have been running our business this last 20 years and we have been expanding maybe year-on-year.”
Now he fears new customs checks proposed by Boris Johnson as part of his grand bargain plan to break the Brexit impasse will drive business away. Clients happy to criss-cross the border every day when there are no checks will inevitably decide to avoid the frontier altogether. “Then the next thing they quit coming to you. That’s the general rule of thumb.”
After many months of stalemate and with only 27 days left before the UK’s scheduled withdrawal from the EU, Mr Johnson insists he has made a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” with a plan to keep Northern Ireland within Europe’s single market for goods while leaving the EU customs union.
But the return of customs checks on the island of Ireland — which are supposed to be carried out at unspecified locations away from the border — is something negotiators have long sought to avoid for fear of disrupting the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian conflict.