Stormont has not shown any urgency over Brexit challenge

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Our story we report today flags up worrying problems about Northern Ireland’s preparedness for Brexit.

Sam McBride has found that the lack of urgency here over the momentous decision of the UK to quit the European Union is as apparent as it was when the News Letter reported, early in the summer, that the Stormont recess would be as long as it always is.

It has, it seems, been holidays as usual on the Hill.

The devolved government was wholly unprepared for Brexit, despite the fact that the largest and most powerful party, the DUP, was overwhelmingly pro Brexit.

This newspaper advocated Brexit also, so we believe the DUP made the right call about leaving an unwieldy EU that grew too fast and haphazardly. But no-one can be surprised that Brexit is a huge and difficult step that will require years of difficult negotiation and painstaking work.

This Province is the part of the UK that is most affected, given its land border with an EU state, the Irish Republic.

The opinion polls were such that most experts thought Brexit would not happen, but it was always clear that such a vote outcome was distinctly possible. Governments must be prepared when something that is both so possible and so momentous is on the horizon. If they are not so prepared, and it happens on the verge of a major holiday period then leave has to be curtailed for senior politicians and top civil servants.

When the News Letter made this point at the start of the summer, there was an indignant response from some quarters who insisted that hard work was continuing over the summer. But if holiday leave has been curtailed then they could reassure the public by explaining exactly how it is so.

An Assembly spokesperson tells us that committees may meet before September if they consider it necessary. It is necessary, even if only as an illustration of all the hard work that is supposedly now being done, so that a clear signal is sent out about Stormont’s willingness to rise to the challenge.