- 18 Oct 19
While Boris Johnson is faced with a huge challenge in getting the deal agreed with the EU through parliament tomorrow, there is no mistaking the unique pressures that the Brexit decision has involved for Northern Ireland.
As the world and its mother knows by now, a Brexit deal has been done between Boris Johnson and the EU. At this stage, however, its passage through parliament is by no means guaranteed. The DUP – still the biggest party in Northern Ireland – have set their face against it, though enough Labour MPs might risk crossing the floor of the house to enable the dreadful saga to move on to the next, potentially equally messy, stage.
When the news of the DUP’s opposition to the deal was announced, Hot Press was lined up to talk to Gary Lightbody, lead singer with Snow Patrol – who, by the time we spoke, had received the news in LA.
“I’m just confused and depressed by all of this,” Gary told Hot Press. "It’s hard to fathom. Obviously, I would rather Brexit hadn’t happened at all – as would a lot of people. I really don’t know what’s going to happen at this point now. I just hope it doesn’t do the damage that people say it might.”
Gary makes the point that the position of Northern Ireland was neglected when the original referendum happened.
"Northern Ireland seemed like an afterthought through a lot of this Brexit process,” he reflects. "Certainly before the vote was taken it was barely mentioned at all, and it’s taken the last few years for people to realise ‘Oh, what are we going to do about that?’”
This, in relation to the border that runs for all of 499km across the island of Ireland, and splits homes and farms as well as communities along the way.
"Ever since the,n it’s been this ramshackle, slap-dash approach to 'getting past the issue’,” he observes, "and I kind’ve worry that that mentality might've won-out in the end when it comes to a ‘solution'. I don’t know yet. I guess we’re not going to really know until everything gets implemented.”
Among Gary’s concerns is the effect that Brexit might have on young artists and bands. Perversely, it may be that the new customs provisions agreed in the 'Johnson Brexit' deal will offer bands from the North access to Europe without the red tape that bands from England, Scotland and Wales will now have to endure. Then again, maybe not: we’ll have to wait and see.
“It’s going to have a huge impact on future generations,” Gary observes. "There’s a real question as to how it’s going to affect bands from the UK travelling to Europe. To quite a lot of young bands in the UK, it’ll mean not being able to go at all, because you’ll need a huge amount of organisation in terms of visas, documentation etc now to be able travel, as freedom of movement isn’t available to them anymore if the deal gets through parliament.
"A lot of bands won’t know how to do it! I don’t know how to do it and I’ve been in the fucking music business for 25 years. We pay a tour manager to do it, but not everyone can afford to do that.”
Gary Lightbody recently joined with Hot Press in the Now We’re Talking mental health campaign, which we’ve been running in partnership with Pieta House and Lyons Tea. In a beautifully worded video message, recorded specially for the campaign, he emphasised the importance of reaching out and talking about depression if, or when, it hits.
"It’s an amazing thing that you guys did and continue to do,” he said, "to raise awareness and delve so deeply into the issue. It’s something that we should all talk about.”
And so say all of us.
• The full interview with Gary Lightbody will appear in an upcoming issue of Hot Press. Snow Patrol's new album Reworked (Reimagining the back catalogue and greatest hits) will be released on November 8. The band play six UK dates, beginning in Cardiff on November 13 and culminating in the Royal Albert Hall, London on November 20.
Watch Gary's contribution to the Now We're Talking campaign here.