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Question: Do you want Brexit to happen?

There were mixed opinions from candidates on whether they wanted Brexit to happen or not.

In our audit of theMidlands North WestEuropean election candidates, we asked candidates to answer questions on nine of the most pressing issues facing Ireland and Europe in the coming years.

Do you want Brexit to happen? Should Ireland make concessions on the backstop?

Fidelma Healy Eames

I’d prefer if Brexit didn’t happen but at the very least I want a deal.

Peter Casey

My preferred option would be for Britain to remain in the EU. However, I do accept Brexit has dragged on far too long and it’s time for Britain to make up its mind, one way or the other. What we need to do is put plans and emergency funds in place to protect our farmers and businesses, to ensure they can make it through without any financial upheaval.

Matt Carthy

I don’t want to see Brexit happen and I particularly don’t want to see the North of Ireland dragged out of the EU against the will of voters there who chose to Remain. Sinn Féin MEPs have played a crucial role of providing political leadership on the issue of Brexit since 2016.

We advocated a Remain vote in the referendum while others, some who are now EU candidates, recklessly promoted the Tory Brexit agenda.

We proposed that the North should be granted a designated special status, a position that has now been widely accepted by EU and Irish leaders. Sinn Féin MEPs have also played a constructive role in helping shape the withdrawal agreement that includes the pivotal backstop.

There can be no dilution of that provision; it represents the least worst option for our country. Anything less is a major threat to the Good Friday Agreement, to our economy and to our rights. I have also been advocating since 2016 for a Brexit relief fund for Ireland, including an automatic mechanism that can easily be triggered in the event of tariffs being instated, significant currency fluctuations or other Brexit-related shocks.

Cyril Brennan

I am an EU critic because the current set up is based on a neoliberal outlook. I am against the Tory Brexit because it means even more neoliberal measures. I don’t think there should be any concessions that would lead to a hard border. Quite the opposite – the Irish government should declare that it will refuse to implement a hard border if the EU orders it to do so -and it will support active civil disobedience if the British attempt to impose one.

Michael O’Dowd

No I don’t want Brexit to happen. I also support a Border Poll.

Brendan Smith

I do not want Brexit to happen. It is not good for Europe or for Ireland or indeed for Britain.

There are some candidates running in these European elections who are so virulently anti-EU that they were happy to see Britain vote for Brexit. They were wrong.

The notion that a divided Tory party would rally behind both the Withdrawal Agreement and Prime Minister May if Ireland were to give way on the Backstop is a fallacy.

The backstop is an essential insurance policy that both sides hope will never have to be called upon. You don’t cancel an insurance policy when there are reckless people playing with matches across from your house.

Patrick Greene

Yes Brexit should happen. The people of the UK and Northern Ireland had a referendum and who are we to object to their collective decision?

The present FF/FG government should have looked after the Irish nation first instead they put the interests of the EU before those of the Irish people. Leo Varadkar was involved with the EU from a very young age, an EU first policy cannot be ruled out. The UK is our biggest trading partner and at this stage it is not about concessions it is about a failed Irish government strategy and how to recover from it.

It must also be remembered that Ireland was always going to be the most affected country (province) of the EU, so why were we not allowed into the room and have a seat directly at the negotiations?

DD or citizen initiated referenda would have allowed the people of Ireland the opportunity to correct the failed FG/FF government policy and most likely ensured us a seat in the room and at the negotiation table.

Saoirse McHugh

I think that a people’s vote would be the best idea. In general my answer to that would be no, I don’t think Ireland should make concessions on the backstop.

Anne Rabbitte

I think the ideal situation is that Brexit didn’t happen and that the UK remained in the EU. The people had their say in 2016, however, and the democratic will must be respected. At this point, Westminster has to be given the time and space it needs to figure out how exactly it wants to proceed, whether that’s crashing out with no deal, some form of agreed withdrawal or People’s Vote.

There’s so much at stake on this island if Brexit happens, and it could be an economic disaster for Ireland, particularly for many of the counties in the Midlands-North-West. It’s crucial we protect the Good Friday Agreement and the peace we’ve cultivated over the last two decades and on that basis alone, Ireland should not make any concessions on the backstop. There’s too much at risk.

Mairead McGuinness

I regret the result of the Brexit referendum. I think Brexit is damaging for Ireland – but also for the UK. In Ireland, as close friends and neighbours, we can point to how damaging Brexit is already. Right now Brexit is inevitable – but whether it will be an orderly or disorderly Brexit isn’t clear.

I am working to ensure it is orderly as the consequences of a hard Brexit would be very serious.

The backstop contains the necessary measures to prevent a border on the island of Ireland: which both sides in negotiations want. Ireland and the EU have already made concessions on the backstop – accepting British PM Theresa May’s request that the whole of the UK should stay in the same customs territory as the EU and not just Northern Ireland.

Ideally the backstop will never be needed and the issues will be addressed in the future UK-EU relationship.

But at this stage the problem isn’t the backstop itself: the UK still wants contradictory things from Brexit. The UK wants a close economic and trading relationship with the EU with “frictionless” borders – but it also wants to “take back control” of its laws, regulations, trade deals, borders and immigration. The backstop demonstrates in legal text that the UK can’t have its cake and eat it too. And they can’t have our cake either! Further concessions on the backstop would weaken the guarantee it provides that there won’t be a hard border, while letting the UK kick the can down the road on difficult issues it still hasn’t faced up to some three years after the referendum.

Maria Walsh

During this campaign, I have met business people, farmers, families and people from all walks of life, who like me, do not see any benefit in the UK leaving the EU. However, that is a decision which was made following a referendum and we have to respect that mandate given to the UK Government.

No the backstop is vital. As a candidate for the European Parliament I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

About the author:

Kathleen McNamee

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