Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB) was established in the autumn of 2016 – shortly after the Brexit referendum took place in the UK, and Gibraltar asking the electorate if the country should remain a member of, or leave, the EU.

The UK voted to leave the EU and the threat of a no-deal Brexit is now looming largely on the horizon – the UK is set to leave the EU on October 31.

The people of Northern Ireland are becoming increasing concerned about what is going to happen to them, their livelihoods and to life as they have known it for the last 20 years – once the deal is done.

BCAB, meanwhile, emerged as a result of the mounting concerns over Brexit and quickly became a campaign to highlight the issues for people living north and south of the border.

Damien McGeinty is a a part-time suckler farmer outside Forkhill in Co. Armagh – a rural area that nestles quietly along the border.

He is also coordinator of BCAB and he explained to AgriLand recently how and why the group was formed in the first instance.

“We got together with a group of farmers and business people living along the border area – not just in south Armagh – but in areas all along the border,” he continued.

“After discussing the impact Brexit was going to have on all of us we decided that a campaign was needed to highlight the issues.”

As a result BCAB was born.

‘The ordinary person’

McGeinty says that the group provides a platform “to highlight the story of the ordinary person in all of this”.

Along the border there are people – north and south – who are going to be very negatively impacted by Brexit.

“BCAB has helped people to get to know each other better and open up the lines of communication for people in the border region.

“We share information on WhatsApp and we also have a Facebook page; we have gotten a lot of support from political parties too but we have no real money as such.”

McGeinty and other members of BCAB have been to Brussels and Strasbourg over the last couple of years to highlight the plight of the people living along the border because of Brexit.

He also pointed out that those fortunate enough to travel to the EU to discuss the issues could not have done so without the generosity of numerous MEPs.

MEPs have been generous with their allowances; we have been to Brussels and Strasbourg and they have paid for the flights and accommodation for us.

He added: “We spent three days in Strasbourg and we met with MEPs and various groups there; we were able to highlight our concerns in relation to Brexit.”

Highlighting the cause

BCAB has also held a number of public events to highlight the concerns of those involved in the campaign.

McGeinty says that while they have helped to raise general awareness around Brexit, the focus has been “on our own audience – the people of Ireland”.

From very early on we could not figure out how border control would work if there was a no-deal Brexit.

He continued: “Customs checks and road closures would be the only way it could work, and, I suppose, that would be the solution as we see it. But how problematic would that be?

“That is why we are doing what we are doing; we have lobbied extensively in Europe and in Dublin. We support the withdrawal agreement and we support the backstop.

It isn’t perfect but I think that it is the best compromise available – certainly from a farming point of view.

“We are losing Common Agriculture Policy (CAP); we are losing common fisheries; we are not in the single market for services and this doesn’t really get talked about.

“Yet there are huge implications for people who work in finance or in other service sectors where products are being sold into the EU.”

Bringing it home

McGeinty also has a personal story to tell in all of this.

From a personal point of view my wife is from the south; she works in Co. Monaghan.

He added: “We are a family of six living in this area going about our normal daily life and if there is a no-deal Brexit our life will become a nightmare.

“My wife will have to go through official checks at the border – she crosses the border five times in each direction just to go to work and she is one of 40,000 people that does that every single day.”

He says there is a plethora of reasons as to why he became involved in BCAB.

“We are afraid that a no-deal Brexit will happen; we hope Europe stays in our corner and that we can get a resolution to all of this,” concluded McGeinty.