The sole unionist leader to endorse a pro-EU vote has said that the ‘Leave’ victory means Stormont now needs to urgently plan for life outside the EU.
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the public needs to be reassured that the Executive has a plan for the way forward after the shock outcome.
Mr Nesbitt – whose party was divided over the issue – said: “Despite the clear majority within Northern Ireland voting to Remain within the European Union, we must respect the overall result and deal with it and its implications, political, financial and social.
“There is no evidence that the Executive has been planning for this outcome. They need to move very quickly to reassure the public that there is a plan, because the full implications for Northern Ireland may not be clear for up to two years.
“I am very disappointed but not surprised that the Deputy First Minister’s reaction was to introduce further uncertainty by calling for a border poll on a united Ireland.”
He added: “This has been a bitter and divisive campaign. The result changes the nature of the United Kingdom and the Ulster Unionist Party will be tireless in playing its role in ensuring the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland remains strong.”
By contrast, a jubilant Jim Allister – a fervent Eurosceptic – hailed Thursday’s vote as “one of the high points in our nation’s momentous history”.
The TUV leader said: “The people, the ordinary people, of this great nation took back control, breaking the destructive shackles of the EU and setting our nation on the path to liberty and prosperity.
“Liberated, we now have the opportunity for the rebirth of our nation. I congratulate all who made this victory possible by withstanding the scaremongering of the Europhiles and voting Leave. I am particularly proud of North Antrim, which led the way in Northern Ireland with the highest leave vote in the Province.”