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Varadkar admits election looks ‘very tight’ after poll shows rise in support for Sinn Féin

Varadkar stressed that Brexit negotiations will be dificult if there is trouble forming an Irish government.
Feb 2nd 2020, 12:06 PM 29,394 158

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that Fine Gael is lagging behind in the polls but that the General Election is “all to play for” following the results of the latest opinion poll. 

Varadkar told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that “it’s looking like a very tight election”.

The Business Post/Red C poll has Sinn Féin up five points at 24%, tying with Fianna Fáil for the top spot.

The poll shows that Micheál Martin’s party is down two points to 24% while Fine Gael is down two points to 21%.

“We’re a bit behind, but everything is within the margin of error of 3%, so this election is all to play for,” he said. 

One thing that won’t happen, you won’t see a coalition involving my party and Sinn Fein. That’s just not going to happen.

“Sinn Fein, in our view, is soft on crime and also high on tax – proposals to tax business, pensions, incomes, wealth, property, you name it, to the tune of four billion euros and that would be enormously damaging for the Irish economy, for people’s jobs and incomes and livelihoods and businesses.

That’s definitely not going to happen. So, the likelihood is actually going to be quite difficult to form a government over the next couple of months.”

Varadkar and Martin both tweeted out videos yesterday accusing the other of considering a Sinn Féin coalition. 

On Brexit, Varadkar stressed that there will difficulty over negotiations if there is trouble forming an Irish government.

“Negotiations will take place between the UK and the EU, but we’re very much plugged into the EU side. We’re part of the ‘Team 27’ and we have a lot of influence in that regard as the EU trade commissioner is an Irishman.

“I think there will be difficulty if we have trouble forming a government in Ireland.

“The reason why the election is happening now is I took the decision that now was the best time, that there was a window of opportunity to have an election here in Ireland.

“We’d have to have one anyway by spring of next year.

I chose this as the window of opportunity to have an election and to have a new government in place by that crucial European Council meeting in March, so I know that is something the Irish public will reflect on when they go to the polls at the weekend, we need to have a stable government because that’s essential for our future in so many different ways.

Boris Johnson is expected to tell the European Union he is prepared to accept border checks in a no-deal like scenario as tensions ratcheted up between the sparring sides.

The UK  government is understood to be privately infuriated by what it perceives to be attempts by Brussels to change the terms of the deal struck in October as part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

- With reporting from PA 

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