Now is the time to pull together and get the best Brexit deal for NI

DUP MLA for Belfast South, Christopher Stalford, wearing a Leave badge at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, for the counting of votes cast in the EU referendum in June. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
DUP MLA for Belfast South, Christopher Stalford, wearing a Leave badge at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, for the counting of votes cast in the EU referendum in June. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

In the recent European Union referendum, the people of the United Kingdom from Londonderry to London from the Shetland Islands to Lands’ End were given their opportunity in a free and fair vote to decide wither or not the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union.

The people of the UK made their choice.

Brexit means Brexit. This country is leaving the European Union but since that historic decision some of those who were on the losing side have sought to continue fighting the referendum campaign.

They argue that the outcome is merely advisory and can or should be ignored. The fact that referenda are rare in the United Kingdom and are exceptional events in our constitutional tradition, merely underlines the finality of the result, it cannot be got around or wished away.

The referendum campaign was hard fought with very strong feelings on both sides of the argument and whilst we must and should respect the outcome we also need to come together as a country.

The people of the United Kingdom should not be divided indefinitely into leavers and remainers. We are one United Kingdom.

Those of us who were on the winning side of the referendum campaign would be failing if we didn’t take account of concerns raised by those who were on the losing side.

Last week, the First Minister and deputy First Minister published a joint letter to the Prime Minister Theresa May.

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuiness were on differing sides over the question of wither or not the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union but now there is a recognition by the Executive that Northern Ireland will be leaving the European Union and plans are being made for that.

Those who have cynically sought to misrepresent the actions of the First Minister do so because they wish to live in denial about the referendum outcome.

Already we have seen some who publicly declare their devotion to democracy call in the lawyers to try and block the democratic will of the people. When the First Minister outlines the important areas where Northern Irelands voice must be heard in the coming negotiations she is providing leadership.

This stands in sharp contrast to those who ran away from being in government and in a position to affect the outcome of negotiations.

The referendum is over; the decision is taken.

Now is the time for all responsible people to pull together and work for the very best outcome.

I am proud of the British people and courageous decision that they took and my party leader our First Minister for the leadership she has shown during and after the referendum.

Carping and sniping from the side lines is not leadership, it’s not even sensible opposition.

Christopher Stalford MLA DUP, South Belfast