Taxi-drivers, wedding car and limousine operators and bus firms in Londonderry are being asked to choose between making a living and breaking the law thanks to the border as it is now and the situation could get even worse post-Brexit.
Proponents of a United Kingdom exit from Europe have argued a common travel area and open border will remain if the UK leaves the European Union but Mark Durkan senior and junior have separately pointed out that the border is already a major headache for some of their constituents.
Londonderry MP Mark Durkan, speaking in Westminster this week, argued “borderism would become inevitable” in the event of a vote to leave.
“We are not free of it at the minute, even within the current EU context, as wedding car businesses in my constituency can testify.
“Once those pressures or issues arise, border controls and border differences are emphasised, and that has an impact on trade,” said Mr Durkan.
His colleague Margaret Ritchie agreed: “His constituency has a clear border with County Donegal, and he articulates a particular fear: our concern that customs posts will immediately be put up, and will carry with them a major impediment to and restrictions on trade and people’s betterment. Far from improving control of our borders, leaving the EU would make it harder for the UK to manage the only land border that it has with the Common Market. That is a risk that we cannot afford to take.”
Meanwhile, Mr Durkan’s nephew Mark H, the Environment Minister, last month acknowledged that honest hard-working taxi-drivers are already being forced into de facto banditry just because they are based in a border town.
“I believe, a blind eye has been turned by the authorities on both sides of the border to cross-border taxi journeys,” he said.
“I have raised the issue with the Transport Minister in the South previously, and I would like to see something in legislation to enable the smooth carrying out of this business across borders for our constituents.
“I know that many of my constituents - well, they are not my constituents any more because they live maybe five minutes away in County Donegal - would be inclined to lift the phone and ring a taxi office in Derry to come and get them and bring them into Derry, which is, strictly speaking, not permissible.
“However, it is what people do, and it is what works for them. It is also what works for drivers, and it is ridiculous that it should not be allowed,” he said.