CONCERNED tourism industry leaders have been warned that a reintroduction of a hard border in Ireland, as a direct result of Brexit, would be “absolutely detrimental” and it could lead to the return of violence in the North.
Ireland South MEP, Sean Kelly, told delegates at the AIB Let’s Talk Tourism forum in the Muckross Park Hotel, Killarney that he has a feeling Brexit might not happen but there is certainly a hardening of attitudes towards the UK in Europe.
“Brexit was a false vote, based on emotion and mistruths. There had been 20 years of falsehoods from the British tabloids and they were never contradicted. The decision to exit was also based on keeping migrants out,” he said.
Mr Kelly said he believes British Prime Minister, Theresa May, might call a general election next June or July and everything could change after that.
But, in the meantime, the MEP warned that the return of a hard border would impact enormously on the peace process.
“One small thing could spark it all off again. Some people haven’t gone away and we are in for at least two years of uncertainty, probably longer,” the Fine Gael MEP stated.
He said it was becoming clear that the attitude in Britain has changed and the latest poll showed that 56 per cent would now vote to remain in Europe with the “vast majority” of young people against Brexit.
Kerry Fine Gael Senator Paul Coghlan told the forum that the outcome of Brexit was “a huge unknown” but people in tourism are right to be concerned.
”It’s hell for you in tourism and it’s going to be a very difficult time.
“I think (Theresa) May is going to chicken. She will call a general election sometime next year,” he said.
“May has a very precarious majority. She is an opportunist and I’m convinced she will go for it next year rather than see this out. It’s important that Belfast and London and Dublin get common ground,” the Killarney politician stated.
Trinity College Professor of Finance and Waterville native, Brian Lucey, told the gathering in the Muckross Park Hotel that Brexit will certainly lead to a harder customs border the likes of which has not been seen before in this country.
“We need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Brexit is a major bump in the road but it is still only a bump in the road and we can get through it,” he said.
The chief executive of the country’s largest hotel group told delegates at the forum that there is a fear that Ireland could end up paralysed if too much time is spent worrying about Brexit.
Delata Hotel Group boss, Pat McCann, said: “My concern is that we’ll get so down in ourselves with all the worrying about what will happen but we must keep going.
“If you’re going through hell what do you do? You keep going because you have no other option. We need to look at other opportunities and work on developing them,” said the Delata chief.
“We could still be there in four or five years talking about what might happen and maybe nothing will have happened.”
Mr McCann, whose company has 41 hotels, managing 8,000 rooms with 4,500 employees, pointed out that there has been “a big shift” in visitors coming to Ireland with the UK market growing by just four per cent while the growth in European and US visitors has been well over 50 per cent.
“We have grown massively in the other two markets. It’s a fact that Ireland is seen as an extension of the UK domestic market.