IENGLISH LISTENING: Ireland’s Border After Brexit (Upper Intermediate)

What will happen to Ireland’s ‘invisible border’ after Brexit?


DESCRIPTION: Irish businesses face uncertainty because of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. In 2017, the border is invisible and its effects are reduced by the UK and Republic of Ireland both being in the EU. But Brexit threatens to create an unstable and economically damaging situation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


Fermanagh (noun): a county in Northern Ireland

Cavan (noun): a county in the Republic of Ireland, next to Fermanagh

Claimant (noun): a person claiming/receiving weekly social welfare payments

Building boom (noun): A period of economic growth when lots of houses are being constructed.

Underestimate (verb): Estimate/judge something to be less important than it really is

Checkpoint (noun): The place at a border where the police check people and their bags/car etc.

Sit on one’s hands (idiom): Take no action about something



Employers are concerned about:

Belcoo has a ________ population:

Almost _____ of the properties in Black Lion are empty.

If border checkpoints are introduced, Gearoid's company will have to:

Regarding staff, employers are particularly concerned about:

Regarding tourism, the main concern is:


Presenter: And Clodagh, you two have been looking at the retail offer, particularly in local villages.

Clodagh: Yes, and I mean businesses right across Northern Ireland are concerned about Brexit and what it’s going to mean for them, but these businesses in these areas are really at the forefront of things. I think the extent of the cross border trade here really can’t be underestimated. So we’re going to be hearing later on in the programme from an example of a business which has operations on both sides of the border and a private road between them. So it’s interesting when we talk about changes to this invisible border. What’s that going to mean for things like private land, for employers – they might have concerns, whether it’s to do with movement of their goods, their services, or even their staff. I think there’s a lot of questions that we’re going to be talking about throughout the course of the programme.

Male Presenter: Well, Clodagh Rice is also in Belcoo in County Fermanagh. Good morning Clodagh.

Clodagh: Good morning Declan and I’m afraid I don’t want to rub it in but it really is a beautiful morning here in Belcoo, just on the edge of Lough Macnean. And Belcoo is a small village in Fermanagh and we’re going to be hearing from a few businesses throughout the course of the morning from this border area. But just before we’re joined by them I’ve been taking a look at the local economy here and trying to have a look to see about some of the main characteristics. So a relatively small population in the 100s situated just at the Fermanagh-Cavan border. A very strong ‘Remain’ vote in the EU referendum, one of the strongest – the Fermanagh and South Tyrone vote was about 59 percent or so. If we take a look at the unemployment statistics here using the claimant count – that’s the percentage claiming unemployment related benefits, in Fermanagh that stands at about 2.2 percent, which is average. I mean, it’s lower than the Derry and Strabane district council, which is about 5 percent, but still higher than places like Mid-Ulster, which is 0.6 percent. Now, if we try and take a look at some of the other indicators here to see how the economy is going on – things like house prices: the average house price in Fermanagh is about £112,000. And interestingly, it’s one of the few areas in Northern Ireland where house prices didn’t fall in the latest round of statistics that were published. But that is probably because they’re coming from a lower base here. Slightly below the Northern Ireland average of about £124,000. So we’re just overlooking, as Karen was describing earlier, this invisible border. And on the other side of that is a village called Black Lion in west County Cavan. A population of maybe less than 300. One of the reasons it has been making the news recently is because it has one of the highest number of vacant properties in Ireland, with almost half of all homes there sitting empty. So according to the latest Census figures, the vacancy rate in Black Lion was more than 40 percent in April 2016. And these new figures also suggest that most people can’t afford a home until they’re over 35 or so. I think the building boom meant that many houses that were built, but they just didn’t happen to sell. And now the FTSE, the market closed up 30 points at 7,515.

Declan: Well, Clodagh Rice is also in Fermanagh this morning, she’s looking at business in the border counties, good morning Clodagh.

Clodagh: Good morning, Declan. Yes, well speaking to businesses in the border area that are going to be the most affected by any changes coming about as a result of Brexit, and one example of a business that straddles the border is Quinn Building Products. They have two quarries – one in Northern Ireland and one in the Republic – and a private road between them. And I’m joined by Gearoid Gilheeny, their transport manager. So, now we’ve just been chatting and obviously talking about things like border checks, that time means money, and I suppose your transport vehicles could be checked as many as four times on a short journey to somewhere like Bundoran!

Gearoid: Yes, we don’t know what the border controls that are going to be put in place, but at the moment, with free movement, we can use the shortest route, the most economical route. So we fear that if these controls are put in place then we’re going to have to make diversions. A lot of our work is through Northern Ireland going from Ballyconnelly, Cavan, to, for example, Donegal. Or also even, to go to Dundalk and other places. We straddled the border a number of times so we’re just concerned about what will happen if border posts are put in place again.

Clodagh: And now, transporting products like cement, that’s not something you can necessarily just uproot.

Gearoid: No, no, the problem obviously with factories like that is they are major factories and you can’t just build a new factory in a short length of time or even if you want to build a factory again. So, the places are going to be there, the factories are going to be in position so it’s a matter of how are we going to get them transported to our customers and how we are able to serve our customers best.

Clodagh: And what will it mean for staff?

Gearoid: Well, we don’t know. The problem is we don’t know and until we have a better idea of what’s going to be put in place. We have staff that like myself, that live in the Republic, we don’t know whether in the long term we’re going to have to move jobs, certain jobs, from one side to the other. We don’t know whether we’re going to have to move vehicles from one side of the border to the other. The problem is there’s such uncertainly, you know. That’s our biggest issue.

Clodagh: Okay thank you very much for joining us this morning and on the markets the FTSE is closed but will open shortly at 7,515 points. A pound is worth €1.13 and $1.16.

Presenter: yeah Elaine and Clodagh both here with me at the picnic table and Clodagh, you’ve a guest!

Clodagh: Yes, well I’m also joined here at the picnic table by Donal McGovern. He’s the chairman of Enniskillen business partnership. I suppose the extent of cross-border trade in this area can’t be underestimated, Donal, but I suppose one silver lining had been the short term boost for retailers because of the weak pound here.

Donal: Yeah, it’s definitely helped, the pound, but obviously it’s short term and we want some guarantees for the future, you know, what’s going to happen, you know, with the border.

Clodagh: In terms of the employers in the area, you know, can you give us an idea of their concerns in terms of staff. I know there have been questions raised in terms of things like immigration.

Donal: Well yeah, like, one of the things that I know from my point of business is we have a joke: How are my staff going to need… they live in the South… are they going to need a passport to come to work, you know? And also, there’s a lot of foreign nationals living around Fermanagh, doing jobs in the nursing homes and the hospitals. And they’ve really got no guarantees yet on their, on their stay and they’re very important to our economy.

Clodagh: One sector we heard from earlier in the programme, it’s very important to the economy here, is tourism. How do you feel that’s going to be affected?

Donal: Well, Enniskillen where I come from is a beautiful place to come, and obviously it’ll stay like that, but nobody wants to sit in 20 minute border checkpoints to come to visit, you know? Especially for a day trip or a short weekend, nobody wants to spend that much time. And if we do have a hard border, you know, it needs to be made easier for people to come from Belfast to Enniskillen. But certainly the hard border would be a real issue.
I suppose in the meantime it’s this issue of uncertainty that businesses are all trying to get their heads around. In terms of, you know, regardless of challenges and opportunities that are all out there, it’s this sort of interim period, are… Do businesses here feel that they have to sit on their hands?

Donal: Well, they certainly don’t sit on their hands in terms of, they have to keep moving on, but they can’t plan the long term future because they don’t know what the future holds so investments are going to be held back if we don’t know what’s coming down to road for us.

Clodagh: Okay, well thank you very much for joining me this morning Donal.