Hundreds of people will gather at locations across Northern Ireland to either protest or celebrate the UK formally leaving the EU tonight.
Supporters of Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB) are holding nine protests at towns on both sides of the border while Brexiteers – including the DUP MLA Jim Wells – will gather outside Stormont for a Brexit Day party.
Union flags will be flown and a piper will also be in attendance as the clock strikes 11pm, the official time the UK leaves the EU and enters immediately into an 11-month transition period.
However, Declan Fearon, chairperson of BCAB, said it was important border communities continue to show their opposition to Brexit, even with government assurances no infrastructure is to be erected within the island of Ireland.
Protesters have been encouraged to hold aloft their lit-up mobile phones.
“People are still extremely concerned in the long term. We’re happy there’s no real infrastructure on the border,” he explained.
“Before the protests we intend to meet up with the remain parties to discuss our ongoing issues.”
Remainers will gather at Carrickarnon, Co Louth, Aughnacloy, Strabane and Aghalane in Co Tyrone, Blacklion, Co Cavan, and in Lifford and Bridgend, in Co Donegal, from 9.30pm.
Meanwhile, an hour later Leavers will assemble at Stormont’s main gates for what Mr Wells said yesterday will be a “relatively low-key” affair compared to other UK celebrations.
“A piper will be coming, and there will be speakers at it. Lanterns will also be lit to mark the occasion,” he explained.
Stressing that the event had been organised by a local group of Brexiteers, Mr Wells revealed he had been approached to help them promote the event online.
“We’ve had huge interest in it,” he said.
“I’ve had calls from people in London and Switzerland and the US… no matter where you stand (on the Brexit issue) it’s an historic occasion for the UK.” The MLA said he had no idea how many people would attend, but added that he had been in discussion with security at Stormont to request the gates be opened if numbers swell.
While efforts have been put in place to ensure a party atmosphere, he acknowledged the mood might also be reflective of what lies ahead for Northern Ireland.
“There will be concern (from unionists) that in 2020 we must leave on the same basis as the rest of the UK without the border down the Irish Sea,” he explained.
Mr Fearon also said that while tonight’s milestone will bring a feeling of relief among BCAB supporters that the current deal ensures no hard infrastructure at the border, fears remain it still could be undone by the UK government.
“It’s important for people to know that we still have some serious concerns,” he said.
“I think anyone who sensibly looks at how Brexit has impacted us, certainly wouldn’t be out celebrating,” added Mr Fearon.