Answers needed on Brexit impact

Posted By: July 02, 2016

Irish News (Belfast). Editorial.Saturday, July 2, 2016

The outcome of the EU referendum has created an atmosphere of widespread uncertainty and deep concern across all sections of society as government, business, employers, investors and ordinary workers grapple with this seismic change.

Answers to many key questions have been in short supply as it has become painfully apparent that the Leave campaign had no clear plan beyond polling day.

Realistically, we will have to wait for a new British prime minister to determine what happens next in terms of when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered and what sort of relationship is envisaged between the UK and Europe.

In some ways a short pause after the divisive campaign and the shock result may be no bad thing but that is of little benefit to the many people wondering how this vote will impact on their everyday lives and their livelihoods.

Among them are the people who have come from other parts of Europe to work in our factories, hotels, hospitals and care homes and who make a valued contribution to Northern Ireland.

They need urgent reassurance about their positions while we know that the health service, in particular, relies heavily on overseas staff and consideration must be given by the authorities to the full the implications of the Brexit vote.

Members of the Leave campaign have already backtracked on a pledge to channel £350 million a week to the NHS but people who voted on this basis will want to see clear evidence that exiting the EU will bring significant benefits.

Certainly, this will be of primary concern to cancer patients in Northern Ireland who are facing an unacceptable wait for treatment.

According to the latest figures, health trusts are still missing their targets for urgent cancer referrals, making an already anxious time for patients even more stressful.

Of course, health is only one of the areas which will be seeking assurances over funding following Brexit.

Organisations and sectors – including agriculture – currently receiving subsidies and grants from Europe will want to know if their funding will be maintained.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has signalled that Stormont would receive money to cover annual farm payments as part of the block grant but farmers are seeking certainty over the provision of direct support.

However, we do not yet know if the executive will be able to fill the gap left by the ending of European money, something that will have huge implications for jobs and services across the north.

There is no doubt the Leave vote will have profound consequences for people across Britain, Northern Ireland, the Republic and Europe.

The lack of planning for this outcome is alarming but as the dust settles people will want to know what happens next and how will it affect them.