Now executive must provide leadership

Posted By: June 25, 2016

Irish News (Belfast). Editorial Saturday, June 25, 2016

The EU referendum vote result is a political earthquake and as with any large-scale tremor it will take some time for the consequences to become clear.

We are now in the territory of the unknown with the political establishment in Britain, Ireland, Europe and beyond shaken to its core.

The first casualty of the shock Leave result was British prime minister David Cameron.

It was inevitable he would have to step down following his catastrophic decision to hold a referendum in the face of pressure from within his party over the UK’s position in Europe.

His inability to stand firm on this issue has destroyed his career, left his party even more bitterly divided than before and – most importantly – plunged his country into an uncertain future.

The Labour Party also must look to its role in this debacle. Jeremy Corbyn was late to realise the dangers and failed to understand the depth of the disenchantment that existed in the Labour heartlands.

The party failed to persuade supporters of the positives within Europe and combat the fears that had been whipped up over immigration.

However, the vote has been lost and the political recriminations will continue. The more immediate question for the vast majority of ordinary people is: What does the future hold?

Senior politicians and the Bank of England governor were quick to urge calm in order to stem the panic which gripped the financial markets.

It is vital that stability returns in the next few days as we assess the fallout from this dramatic result.

But there is no doubt the repercussions will be profound, for the UK, Ireland and Europe.

While England and Wales voted to leave the European Union, Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted decisively in favour of staying in.

We are likely to see a push for another vote on Scottish independence, which could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom, something the Leave campaign knew was on the cards.

Warnings were also issued about the far-reaching implications for people on this island and despite a majority in The North clearly demonstrating a desire to remain, we are faced with the possible return of border controls and the loss of the significant funding that comes from Europe.

To say that this result has caused dismay in the Republic would be an understatement. The Dáil has been recalled to discuss the crisis and while Taoiseach Enda Kenny has reassured people there will be no immediate changes, we are all in uncharted waters.

It is crucial that we now have a period of stability in order to fully digest and consider the ramifications of this vote.

We have to remember that there will be two years of negotiations before Britain finally detaches itself from the EU and a lot can happen in that time.

While the main focus of attention is on Westminster and Brussels, it is essential we get firm leadership from the Stormont executive.

Sinn Féin and the DUP were on opposite sides in this debate but Arlene Foster has to acknowledge the will of the majority in Northern Ireland and explain how this decision will affect families, workers, farmers, those living on The Border and European migrants living in the north.

We are in a time of deep uncertainty and it is up to political leaders to provide a clear sense of direction on the way ahead.