Jonesborough (United Kingdom) (AFP) – “You blink and you miss it,” said Neill McCourt, owner of a dog care business that operates from three sites on both sides of the nearly-invisible Irish border.
Like many companies in this region, Dog Eclipse is concerned about the possible consequences of Brexit and in particular the threat of a hard border.
It relies on the ability of staff and customers — and their pets — to criss-cross the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland every day.
As British MPs prepare for an all-important Brexit vote on Tuesday, border communities are concerned.
“To me, it’s not even like a border, it’s just another part of the road,” 39-year-old McCourt told AFP, surrounded by a hectic pack of some two dozen dogs.
Dog Eclipse is made up of a kennel, a dog grooming salon and a daycare centre operating out of two sites in Northern Ireland and one in the Republic of Ireland.
McCourt, who established the business in 2008, crosses up to six times a day, often with his own Dachshund and Doberman in tow.
“There’s going to be long delays there for anyone who wants to travel across the border to use our service here,” he said, speaking at the daycare centre just 50 metres (yards) from the border with the Republic of Ireland.
Half of the dogs at the centre hail from homes south of the border and half from the north.
Cutting through the racket of barking, McCourt handles business with two mobile phones.
One British handset manages his northern affairs, the other Irish number is for calls from the Republic.
– One day at a time –
“The location is just off the motorway at the border so we could benefit from northern trade and southern trade, that was the idea,” he said earlier, while blow-drying the flowing coat of a Rough Collie at his salon in Dundalk, a town in the Republic.
Despite being uniquely exposed to border disruption, McCourt did not vote in the 2016 referendum.
And remarkably, he is still personally unphased by the prospect of Brexit.
“I don’t get too hyped up about it — we’ll just have to wait and see,” he said. “I’m just a one-day-at-a-time sort of person.”
But his attitude is not shared by employee Sarah Kerr.
Since 2017, the 28-year-old has travelled from her home in Ireland to work at McCourt’s locations across the border.
“He’s so relaxed,” she marvelled as McCourt played with the dogs.
“I’d worry about what way does it work out if there is a hard border.”