United Kingdom should not rush to trigger Article 50

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As a Remain supporter, though like many in the Green Party not uncritical of the European Union, we have gone from cautious optimism that the UK would vote Remain to the cold reality of a victory for the leave side.

As a member of a progressive party I’m used to being on the losing side.

But I have been deeply affected by this decision, even more so than when I lost by three votes in the 2007 local elections.

Perhaps I am over-reacting and things will not be as bad or negative as I currently assume.

However, nothing in the post-Brexit chaos, whether the downgrading of the UK’s credit rating, businesses talking of re-locating to Europe, the political in-fighting within the Conservative and Labour parties, or the rise in racism and xenophobia both nationally and locally, has yet convinced me that the sick feeling in my stomach is completely unwarranted.

Predictably, the Brexit backing DUP leader and First Minister, Arlene Foster, refused to ‘do a Cameron’ and resign given a majority of Northern Ireland voted to remain.

I have never signed more Irish passport applications in such a short amount of time as I have done these past few days and this reaction of local people, who had no mind to apply for Irish passports and therefore Irish citizenship, is an indication of the shock and calculations people are making in the wake of Brexit.

We now have the phenomenon where ‘British unionists’ are voting with their feet to become Irish (and therefore EU) citizens.

While this of course should not be viewed as a prelude to unionists supporting a united Ireland, it is better perhaps viewed as a sort of individual level ‘reverse Greenland’.

This ‘reverse Greenland’ allows people in Northern Ireland to remain part of the EU, by becoming Irish citizens, while also being citizens of the (dis)United Kingdom.

At this point of course it is far too early to tell what will be the long-term impacts of the decision to leave the European Union.

Fresh Westminster elections look very likely and I welcome that to give a new government a mandate to implement the referendum decision.

We should not rush to trigger Article 50 to formally begin withdrawal negotiations.

If there’s one thing the (dis)United Kingdom is not now ready to do it is to start negotiations about the shape of our future relationship with the European Union.

John Barry, Green Party, Councillor Ards and North Down