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|Summary:||Brexit threat brings Xmas bonus to NIreland|
|Date:||12/21/2016 01:00 PM|
The threat of Brexit is delivering a Christmas shopping bonanza to Northern Ireland, where thousands visiting daily from the euro-using Republic of Ireland are finding bargains driven by the battered pound.
In the malls of Newry, a Northern Ireland town barely five miles (eight kilometres) from the United Kingdom's only frontier with an EU partner, the surge in cross-border holiday shopping underscores how far the British currency has fallen amid anxiety over a UK exit.
While the euro these days is unusually weak, the pound is far weaker, boosting price differentials on most goods.
That's been the case since May, when a majority of British voters - including 44 percent of those in Northern Ireland - shocked pollsters by voting to leave the world's largest economic union.
The pound sterling suffered its biggest fall in decades and today is worth less than 1.20 euros, about 15 percent less than a year ago.
Traffic on the approach roads to Newry is running bumper to bumper as Christmas approaches, and the heavy presence of southern Irish shoppers is obvious from the license plates that display names of their home counties.
Once visitors find a parking spot and head inside, they are confronted by a stock market-style ticker display listing each shop's competing exchange rates - right beside the spot where children queue to see Santa on his sleigh.
Many shops offer bank-beating discounts to shoppers paying in euros; a few even take euros on equal value terms to pounds.
Cathal Austin, who has managed The Quays mall for 15 years, estimates that business from Republic of Ireland shoppers is running more than 50 percent higher than last Christmas.
He's spotted customers arriving by chartered bus from as far away as Tipperary, Cork and Kerry in Ireland's southwest, four hours away or more.
But Austin worries that this pre-Brexit party could leave a bitter hangover.
He remembers how smuggling thrived and legal commerce struggled before the EU's common market in the early 1990s abolished customs checks along Ireland's meandering 310-mile (499-kilometre) border.
He fears that Brexit, when it eventually comes, could mean the return of a hard border with enforced import restrictions.
Newry's gain is commonly Dundalk's loss.
Dundalk, barely 14 miles (22 kilometres) down the road, is the nearest Republic of Ireland town and main commercial rival to Newry.
While Newry heaves with shoppers on these December weekends, Dundalk struggles to attract a fraction of the trade.
It's boom time in Newry at the moment, but many are fearful of what the future holds, with the uncertainty of Brexit hanging over the Northern Irish border towns.
Newry, Northern Ireland – 19 December 2016
1. Wide pan right of M1 motorway from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland and the town of Newry
2. Exterior of the Quays shopping centre in Newry
3. Various of information board displaying exchange rates between the euro and the British pound
4. Sign showing one euro to one pound exchange rate
5. Shoppers in the Quays
6. Various set up shots of Cathal Austin, manager of Quays shopping centre
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Cathal Austin, manager of Quays shopping centre:
"We obviously had the Brexit vote and as a result, sterling collapsed to its lowest level for a number of years and it made Newry a more attractive shopping destination for our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland."
8. Various cutaways of Austin
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Cathal Austin, Manager, Quays shopping centre:
"We haven't seen these sorts of numbers since the 'Celtic Tiger' was laid to rest in 2008."
10. Various of Christmas tree
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Cathal Austin, Manager, Quays shopping centre:
"I have bumped into the odd person with rather a lot of vodka in their shopping trolley and wondered if they're still going to be alive in a couple of months time if they drink all that vodka. But one can assume that they're either buying it for friends and neighbours, or else possibly to sell on."
12. Various set up shots of shopper Fiachra MacRaghnaill showing the alcohol he has bought
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Fiachra MacRaghnaill, environmental scientist and Newry resident:
"We were here a couple of weeks ago and it was very busy and you could just tell all the licence plates of the cars were all Dublin, County Louth, County Meath – all the border counties. They were outnumbering the Northern (Irish) cars at least two-to-one."
14. Pan cars from the Republic of Ireland in the car park at the Quays
15. SOUNDBITE (English) Fiachra MacRaghnaill, environmental scientist and Newry resident:
"I don't see the difference between giving the profits to a multinational in one country or a multinational in another country - they're multinational. I would definitely shop local in places that pay their staff more, because I think that's a better way of putting money directly into the economy, but the profits of one rich man, or the profits of another rich man doesn't really sway me either way."
16. Snowman Christmas decoration in shopping centre
17. Shoppers outside clothes store
18. SOUNDBITE (English) Caitlin Doherty, resident of Drogheda, Republic of Ireland:
"Christmas presents, and makeup, and stuff like that, clothes."
Reporter: "How much have you spent and how much have you saved here?"
"I've spent 60 pounds and I've saved at least 30 euro."
19. Set up shot of shoppers loading car
20. SOUNDBITE (English) Simone Gray, shopper from the Republic of Ireland:
"You get a lot of people flock down for drink (alcohol) and there's really not a big difference. I wouldn't be flocking down for drink. You know, I'd buy one or two bottles of wine at home and that would be it anyway, but they do flock for drink, and people are coming from as far as Dublin and Drogheda, and places like that, but the border towns (in the Republic of Ireland) are suffering."
21. Various of man dressed as Santa Claus stacking presents
22. SOUNDBITE (English) Man dressed as Santa Claus:
"Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas - and euros or stirling, Santa accepts anything you like. You come and see me. Merry Christmas."