The majority of people who took part in a new report on Brexit recently published by Queen’s University Belfast say they would not be willing to accept ‘technological’ means of Border control if these were introduced in place of manned checkpoints.
The new study, led by Dr Katy Hayward, Reader in Sociology from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s, finds that residents, including many living in Fermanagh, queried how the technology would work post Brexit with some asking: “What will be done with the data?” and “Is it just number plate checks or mobile data surveillance as well?”
Those saying they might accept technology on the Border say that it’s better than the alternative of a closed Border and checkpoints, seeing it as a compromise between how it is now and the hard Border they remember from the past. One respondent remarked: “Would prefer technology to soldiers.”
The study finds that residents in the Border area now consider themselves generally well informed due a focus on Brexit and the Irish Border in public debate. 
The report, which was commissioned by ICBAN, the Irish Central Border Area Network, also found an increased level of information appears to have deepened people’s fears about a ‘hard Border’, with almost six out of 10 respondents saying they now believe that is it more likely than they previously thought. 
It is a follow-up to the Bordering on Brexit report which was published in November 2017 which found that people in the Central Border Region felt uninformed about Brexit, unrepresented in the process, and had deep fears about the consequences of it. 
Dr. Hayward commented: “The Brexit negotiators’ commitment to avoiding a hard Border is not just about minimising the risk of renewed paramilitary violence. The voices heard in this study point to a different aspect of the same concern: the need to protect peace. This involves defining and securing what has come to be accepted as normal and ordinary.
“And the fact that it feels so normal is both its strength and its susceptibility: we begin to take it for granted. The further away people are from the time and the place of the worst violence in this region, the easier it is for them to forget the devastation, the costs and the consequences of such violence,” Dr Hayward warned.
Cllr. Paddy O’Rourke, Chair of ICBAN said: “While there is a tremendous focus on the Irish Border in the current Brexit negotiations, the Board of ICBAN identified an absence of local community consultation on both sides of the Border. The input of ICBAN has been to lead on an initiative to listen to and record the opinions of local people across the Central Border Region at this critical time.”
He added: “We respect the differing political opinions within our Board, our member Councils and communities on the subject of Brexit, and thus have been careful to ensure that this is a non-political and non-partisan initiative. What the report shows is how similar views are regarding Brexit across the Central Border Region, for people of various backgrounds, voting preference and localities. It is those common views that we are keen to highlight today.”
The intention of the study was to create a space to hear the voices of people in a region most directly affected by the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU inevitably means drawing greater distinctions between the UK and its closest neighbour. The report explains how this process already has material, tangible effects in the everyday experience of people in the Central Border Region.