Varadkar says Ireland is stepping up plans for a no-deal Brexit
Brexit Varadkar says Ireland is stepping up plans for a no-deal Brexit
Politicians north and south of border turn on Sinn FÃ©in for abstaining in Commons vote
The Irish prime minister has said his government is stepping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit as politicians in the Republic and Northern Ireland turned on Sinn FÃ©in for not taking up its seats in Westminster to help defeat the government on knife-edge trade and customs votes.
Leo Varadkar said the instability in Westminster meant there was no guarantee that a withdrawal agreement, even if agreed in Brussels, would get passed in London.
âWe canât make assumptions that the withdrawal agreement will get through Westminster,â he said.
âItâs not evident, or not obvious, that the government of Britain has the majority for any form of Brexit, quite frankly. Because of this the government would step up plans for a âno-deal scenarioâ.
His deputy, Simon Coveney, will brief the cabinet on Wednesday at a meeting in Kerry about contingency planning, including the recruitment of extra customs officer for ports and airports.
Coveney told RTEâs Morning Ireland on Wednesday that the Brexiter amendments to the customs and trade bills were âunhelpfulâ. There has been concern that an amendment guaranteeing that there would never be a border in the Irish Sea makes a backstop on a special deal for Northern Ireland impossible. Cov eney said he did not accept that the amendment made the backstop illegal.
The Irish plan comes as Michel Barnier, the EUâs chief negotiator for Brexit, prepares to advise 27 member states at a council meeting on Friday to deepen contingency planning. A 15-page draft review of the white paper, seen by RTE, says the consequences of no deal âwill be very real for citizens, professionals and business operatorsâ.
Separately, Sinn FÃ©in has come under concerted attack north and south of the border by rivals who say its seven MPs could have defeated the Brexiter amendments had it abandoned its Westminster abstentionist policy.
âThe refusal by Sinn FÃ©in to take up its Westminster seats has plunged the British PM into the clutches of the hard Brexiteers again. Government wins knife-edge vote by wafer thin margin,â tweeted Charlie Flanagan, the justice minister and a member of Varadkarâs Fine Gael party.
Stephen Donnelly, the Brexit spokesman for Fianna FÃ¡il, which is in a supply and confidence government with Fine Gael, also criticised the party.
Sinn FÃ©in has operated an abstentionist plan for 100 years, standing for elections in Northern Ireland but not taking its seats. It has seven MPs, and rival politicians say it could have defeated the government this on the trade bill, which was passed by just six votes, and amendments to the customs bill, which were won by three and four votes.
âHardline Brexiteers won last eveningâs Westminster vote because of Sinn FÃ©in abstentionism,â the Fianna FÃ¡il leader, MicheÃ¡l Martin, said.
In the referendum, Northern Ireland voted 56% in favour of staying in the European Union, but these constituents have no representation either in Westminster or Belfast, where power-sharing has not been restored 18 months after the collapse of the Stormont assembly. Sinn FÃ©in has consistently defended abstentionism, saying it won its seats on the back of the policy.
At an event in Dublin on Tuesday, Flanagan said the situation at Westminster was on a âknife edgeâ. The votes had placed âserious doubtâ over the fate of the UK governmentâs Brexit customs plan, he added.
âVotes are very tight,â said Flanagan. âThere are seven lawfully elected Sinn FÃ©in MPs â" they could tilt the balance in their favour if t hey wished. I acknowledge it is a long-held position of Sinn FÃ©in, one of abstentionism. I am not a supporter of boycotts or abstaining. There may well be an opportunity now to reverse that on the part of Sinn FÃ©in.â
Colum Eastwood, the SDLP leader, tweeted: âTo those who say Westminster doesnât matter â" wake up. Our future is being torn apart by the British government. Abstentionism is not acceptable. Sinn FÃ©in gift Theresa May a win over Brexit. SDLP MPs would have been there to stop Tories.â
It is the first time in years that Sinn FÃ©inâs abstentionist policy has come under suc h a concerted attack; the health minister, Simon Harris, also criticised them for not using their chance to influence Brexit policy.Topics
- Trade policy
- Northern Ireland
- Sinn FÃ©in
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