Brexit: Clear heads, steady nerves, strategic thinking

24 June 2016 - by Gráinne Walsh

Yesterday the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

With an overall turnout of 71.8 per cent this was the highest turnout at a UK-wide poll since 1992. The total final result was: 17,410,742 (51.9 percent) voters opting to leave the EU; 16,141,241 48.1 per cent voting to remain.

The geographical variations are clear and interesting. Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining – 62 per cent; to 38 per cent leave. In Wales, 52.5 per cent of voters chose to leave the EU, compared with 772,347 (47.5 per cent) supporting Remain. London and the large cities may have voted to remain but not enough people turned out to secure a different outcome.

Northern Ireland

Despite Northern Ireland as a whole favouring remain, 55.8 per cent to 44.2 per cent,  a geographical ‘East/West’ split emerged with predominantly unionist constituencies (apart from North Down & Londonderry East) turning out in larger numbers to leave. On a turnout of 62.9 per cent, the local vote was the lowest turnout of all four nations.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) repeated his (11 March 2016) call for a Border Poll in the case of a Brexit. This was firmly rejected by DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster who committed to ensuring Northern Ireland was front and centre of any negotiations with the EU.

The Special EU Programmes Body, the body that administers all EU funding Programmes in Northern Ireland stated that it “is anticipated that all EU Programmes including PEACE IV and INTERREG VA will form part of the discussions that are to take place between the UK government and the European Union during the upcoming negotiations.”

The statement continued: “In the interim, the SEUPB will continue to implement the delivery of PEACE IV and INTERREG VA in its role as Managing Authority for the Programmes.”

Interestingly, the statement concluded with the statement that “The Irish Government remains committed to the successful implementation of the PEACE and INTERREG Programmes.” Does this leave the door open for Northern Ireland to benefit from EU through EU member and neighbour, the Republic of Ireland? 

What Happens Next: What We Know

David Cameron will attend the European Council meeting next week, to formally present the UK verdict to leave. A meeting of the EU members, minus the UK, will be held.

With his resignation announcement this morning, David Cameron has given his party colleagues three months, until the Conservative Conference Party Conference in October, to select a new Prime Minister to trigger Article 50 negotiations, the official mechanism that will initiate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Prime Minister has said the devolved regions should be included within the forthcoming negotiations. How this sits with Nichola Sturgeon’s most recent statement that the Scottish government will begin work on preparing legislation to enable another independence vote, remains to be seen.

All (fundamentally) Remains the same as we plan to Leave

As things stand, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland remains a member state of the European Union with all that implies. EU directives, regulations and obligations remain in place until a UK Prime Minister negotiates an exit agreement. What form any agreement will take cannot be pre-empted.

It should be noted that some Brexiters indicated that they could be open to another, better offer from the EU.

The reassuring words (and £250bn) from the Bank of England this morning shows that all important contingency planning has been taking place. 

Speaking this morning, the BBC NI Economics Editor John Campbell said that while the stock market can send important signals, “it’s a mug’s game to pay attention to the short term volatility of the markets.”  

We are issuing the same health warning for all commentary and punditry over the next few days and weeks. Now is the time for clear heads, steady nerves, strategic thinking and action.

As ever, the team here at Stratagem are on hand to assist at this interesting time.