“THERE is,” Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, declared on January 1, “no ‘Irish Sea Border.’” That was on the day when the first lorries from Cairnryan were arriving in Belfast and being directed to the new border control posts which Lewis’s government had spent £40m on.

In the last week there have been empty shelves in Northern Irish supermarkets (even though they had stockpiled in advance). One logistics expert Mark Cosgrove, a Unionist politician and director of freight company Redhead International, said that anyone who suggests things haven’t changed “has lost touch with reality.”

It’s possible, I suppose, that Mr Lewis simply didn’t want to embarrass the Prime Minister, who, on a visit to Northern Ireland last summer, famously said: “There will be no border down the Irish Sea – over my dead body.” Mangled syntax, but the sentiment was clear.

And yet here we are. There is a border, whatever Brandon Lewis says.

I know, I know. Politicians talk nonsense. What’s new?

Well, for Northern Ireland quite a lot. Small businesses there are beginning to get an idea of what the new post-Brexit reality might mean for their futures. One example. A second-hand car dealer has reported that his suppliers in England have stopped selling to him. Others have reported a mountain of new paperwork.

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These are early days. Teething problems are inevitable. But it should be noted that supermarkets currently have a grace period in the form of a three-month exemption from export health certificates for food from Britain. It is going to be later this year before the changes wrought by Brexit are properly clear. There will also presumably be benefits to Northern Ireland for staying in the single market that Scotland, of course, can’t share.

Whatever the case, Brexit is a reality now. We will find out in the months to come whether its economic impact will be good, bad, or indifferent. Boris Johnson’s shiny new beginning (given his record of empty boosterism I’m thinking probably not) or a cold, difficult readjustment to our position in the world. Or maybe somewhere in between.

It will also continue to shape our politics in the years ahead. How can it not? And it raises huge questions for Northern Ireland. What does being part of the United Kingdom mean when economically you are now a separate entity to the rest of the country?

There has been plenty of talk that Brexit will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom and that Scottish independence and Irish reunification are inevitable. The latter, I suspect, is wishful thinking. Economics does not always trump political identity, especially when it’s as deeply ingrained as Ulster unionism. Demographics may change things in the future perhaps, but not yet.

Still, the border has moved, economically at least, whatever Brandon Lewis might say. The political fallout remains to be seen. Maybe we will begin to have an idea come May, and Northern Ireland’s centenary.

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