Post Brexit, it must not be holidays as usual for Stormont

Morning View
Morning View

The UK has made the correct but painful and massive step of leaving the European Union.

Brexit has plunged the nation into the biggest constitutional upheaval and uncertainty since World War II. It will lead to years of negotiation, until the UK has re-arranged its relations with the EU.

This has huge legal, trade, business, political and societal implications. It will involve exhaustive discussions with the Republic of Ireland, under the auspices of the EU, to try to thrash out practical matters such as policing the land border.

Stormont, it seems, has been wholly unprepared for this, even though the DUP – which is by a distance the largest party in the Assembly – campaigned almost to a person for Brexit.

So you might think Stormont would have a plan to swing into action, to implement such an outcome. And if not that, then you might think that the historic referendum result would have focused minds since Thursday.

The matter was not discussed at Stormont in emergency session on Friday. There has been no meeting of the Executive.

But worse than all of that, this Friday Stormont will sail off on a holiday that will last more than two months.

It is encouraging that Arlene Foster has outlined meetings with the Prime Minister and Taoiseach, and that senior teams will be established withing the departments. But further clarity is needed. Are senior civil servants curtailing their leave, and ensuring high level cover through July and August? Are ministers planning to spend the summer on call in NI , perhaps taking it in turns to allow each other a long weekend dash to the sun? There is no sign that they are.

This seems to be an inadequate response to the most seismic development in British and Irish politics in a generation – one that might have a greater impact on Northern Ireland than any other part of the UK (including Scotland).

This newspaper has argued that the public can be too cynical about politicians. But if it is holidays-as-usual this year for our MLAs and top public servants, then they will be deserving of all the opprobrium that comes their way.