R&A “Concerned” About Brexit Uncertainty in Advance of Open Championship

In a report from Reuters, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has voiced “significant concern” surrounding the “uncertainty” of Brexit, ahead of The Open at Royal Portrush in July.

As part of Brexit, the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. The concern, though, is that leaders will leave with “no-deal” in place, specifically related to borders and trade between Britain and its former EU country/states.

Currently, goods move between EU countries fairly seamlessly – similar to how products are transported within the United States, for instance from New York to California.

With “no-deal,” however, the leaders of EU countries – who are ironically opposed to borders, have threatened to create hard borders for the UK, causing logistical problems for its businesses and traders.

“Like every business, and I think about The Open as such, the lack of certainty about the rules, the law in which we are operating under post-March 29 has caused us significant concern,” Slumbers said in the Reuters piece.

“In hindsight would I be wanting to do Portrush in the year that we would be potentially leaving the European Union without a deal? No.”

Royal Portrush GC
The green on the 382 yards par-4 5th hole ‘White Rocks’ at Royal Portrush GC, the venue for The Open Championship 2019 in Portrush, Northern Ireland. Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

In an apoplectic report at NBCNews.com, a “no-deal Brexit” could “provoke a return to violence” at the border of Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Irish Republic (separate country that will remain part of the EU).

Memories of “The Troubles” — a decades-long conflict that ended with a peace deal in 1998 — are still fresh and there’s a strong desire to avoid a return to a physical border with checkpoints. With no agreement that may not be possible.

“It might not be that at the end of March 2019, if there’s no deal that all of a sudden walls are going to go up,” said Feargal Cochrane, a professor of international conflict analysis at the University of Kent. “They may have a soft landing for a week or two but you can’t see it going on longer than that.”

Efforts to police the border and subsequent arrests could quickly spiral into protests, stone-throwing and even conflict, he warned.

The EU has refused to modify the withdrawal agreement for Britain, making the advance planning that much more difficult for Slumbers and team.

“We have engagement with ministers and Parliament but the concern is all around certainty. If you know the rules you’re playing by then you can play, you optimise what you’ve got,” Slumbers added.

“The problem is we don’t know whether to reschedule to bring all our containers in through Dublin, whether to move them through Belfast, whether to ship them out of the UK now.

Despite the many unknowns, Slumber said it will have no impact on anyone beyond the tournament staging team.

“It doesn’t threaten the staging; we’ll make it happen. It’s just more complex than we anticipated,” continued Slumber.

“For the insiders it’s a bit harder, but for everyone outside it won’t impact at all — they won’t notice.”

The Open Championship will be contested at Portrush for the first time since 1951. The venue was chosen eight months prior to the Brexit vote, which was not expected to pass.

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