‘Brexit election’ raises hopes and fears in Northern Ireland

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s crushing election victory gives Britain a chance to move past years of gridlock over Brexit — especially in Northern Ireland, where social and political divides run deep.

Brexit-voting music trader Lawrence John, 69, reflected relief that the stalled process of extricating Britain from the European Union after nearly five decades was finally moving ahead.

“Like many, many people I’m sick of all this Brexit stuff. Three-and-a-half years ago there was a referendum to decide whether we were going to leave,” he told AFP.

“We’re just finally getting news that it can actually happen after all this time,” he said after Johnson’s Conservatives won their biggest majority since the heyday of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Northern Ireland voted by 56% to remain in the European Union in 2016. Since then, it has become central to a Brexitdeal with Brussels.

The relief also came with a certain level of concern about the process.

Unease spread about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and the re-emergence of a hard border with EU neighbor Ireland to the south.

Border checks are associated with three decades of sectarian violence over British rule of Northern Ireland that left some 3,500 people dead.

The potential removal of an open border — a plank of the 1998 agreement that ended “The Troubles” — has been seen as an unwelcome return to the past.

It also reopened the issue of Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom with England, Scotland and Wales, and the potential of a united Ireland.

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