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Brexit day is nothing to celebrate

Leading article

Tonight at 11pm marks the official time the UK leaves the European Union but for the majority in Northern Ireland who voted to remain, this is not a day for celebration.

Boris Johnson has achieved what he set out to do and with his huge parliamentary advantage following last month's general election, we are set on an unstoppable course that will see Britain disengage from a body that for the most part has provided stability and certainty where previously there had been division, conflict and the wholesale slaughter of millions of citizens.

Of course the EU had its flaws. It was bureaucratically unwieldy and often seemed disconnected from the everyday cares of ordinary people.

But for Northern Ireland and the building of the peace process, it was undoubtedly a force for good. Most people in the north appreciated being part of a greater whole and were perplexed by the negativity and downright hostility exhibited by elements in Britain, mainly parts of England it has to be said, which was fixated to a disturbing degree on immigration.

On this significant day there is little point in rehearsing all the well founded arguments put forward by the remain camp during the referendum campaign in 2016 and during the subsequent fraught years.

The reality is that Brexit is happening but it is also the case that we still do not know how it will impact on the Northern Ireland economy, on business, on farmers or on prices for the consumer.

Tomorrow we will not notice any great difference because we are in a transition period during which time a trade deal will be negotiated, although it is widely accepted that securing agreement in eleven months is extremely ambitious.

However, we are at the start of a process that will inevitably bring change, the extent of which is not yet clear.

Despite Mr Johnson's assurances, we still do not know exactly what will happen in terms of tariffs, checks and controls, or how much paperwork will be imposed on small and medium businesses.

The one positive is that we finally have a devolved administration that can at least voice the concerns of people in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this month the assembly passed a motion withholding consent for Mr Johnson's Brexit bill.

We must hope the executive demonstrates unity of purpose on behalf of everyone in the north as we face the challenges ahead.

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