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Fears EU exit could force Newry into a ‘bygone era'

Irish soldiers and gardai near a customs post at Killeen, between Newry and Dundalk, in 1988

THERE are concerns that a potential exit from the EU could force the border city of Newry into a "bygone era once again".

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Newry has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Border checkpoints, customs posts, queues and traffic delays became a thing of the past and trade in the city began to boom.

Changes in the exchange rate over the years, including the pound reaching the same value as the Euro for a period in 2008, has also seen shoppers from the Republic travel north to places such as Newry.

But there are fears that a vote to leave the EU will see the reintroduction of ID checks and subsequent delays for people travelling between north and south.

While it is unclear how controls would be re-introduced especially given the major improvements to the main road linking Belfast and Dublin, business leaders in Newry last night voiced concern at the potential threat.

For more than half of the small to and medium-sized businesses in the border region, their primary market is the Republic.

Peter Murray, manager of the Buttercrane Shopping Centre in Newry, said the potential impact on the city of the proposed referendum cannot be underestimated.

"Any limitation that would mean putting barriers in place for free trade would not be helpful," he said.

"In terms of retail recently, we have seen a leakage into the south because of the sterling/ euro rate. But to see anything else put in the way of our trade would be concerning.

"I can't imagine having to negotiate border controls again, with queues and traffic delays getting in and out of Newry.

"I would worry about delays for customers coming into Newry, it would be like the bygone era once again.

"We don't need this to hamper the trade we have."

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