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'Mayhem will ensue': Ireland is not ready for a no-deal Brexit, says Fianna Fáil leader

Micheál Martin says it would be ‘irresponsible’ to provoke an election.

Image: Leah Farrell

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has said the Irish government is “not ready” for a no-deal Brexit. 

He also said it would be “irresponsible to provoke a general election in the next number of months”. 

If then UK crashes out of the EU, “mayhem” will ensue at Irish ports, he told reporters. 

“The government says it’s ready for no deal. It’s not ready for no deal. There is a lot of huffing and puffing, but I am told the ports are not ready. Dublin Port is not ready for a no deal Brexit, despite what you hear, and presentations and I am told by people who know the port, with experience of the port, that mayhem will ensue.

“So I think it’s important that if a no deal Brexit is to occur – it may not – but if it’s to occur all hands need to be on deck to make sure that the people are looked after out there, that jobs are looked after, that livelihoods are looked after and protected insofar as we possibly can. That has to be the essential prerequisite of any political party in the country,” he said. 

Sense of crisis

Martin said the Conservative leadership race in the UK was “adding to the sense of crisis” and the “sense of uncertainty” at present, adding that Fianna Fáil intended to continue with the confidence and agreement in order to provide stability. 

He said:

One of the reasons why we extended confidence and supply was the potential of a no-deal Brexit and the necessity of Ireland to be ready for it and I think unfortunately the prospect is as alive today as it was last December when I articulated that viewpoint and announced the strategy that we were adopting in terms of putting the country first and taking a constructive, responsible approach to the affairs of the nation and that’s what we intend to do and that is an issue that we will have to deal with along with the Budget in the coming few months.

He said a no-deal scenario opens up potential economic disruption, stating the no one knows what is to come ”despite all of the analyse”.

“I think it would be irresponsible to provoke a general election in the next number of months and that is our position on that.

“I made the decision last Christmas that I made very clear would take us through to the Budget, and the Finance Bill and beyond that we’ve made no further commitments,” said Martin.

I said what I said last Christmas, that remains the position. That takes us well beyond the Budget, takes us well beyond October the 31st and we’ll have far greater clarity at that stage then as to where we are.

Brexit deadline

Martin said a lot depends on the reality post 31 October deadline and how the new British Prime Minister will respond to it.

“I mean for example there could be a British general election, I don’t know, the new leader could go to the country in a referendum.

“There is a context here that we need to be careful of. I’ve been cautious in speculating on the outcome of the election and what it means because some of these politicians in Britain have been in different positions in the past, have said things categorically and have done 180 degree u-turns on those positions,” he said.

Martin said he could imagine “all sorts of scenarios” once the Tory leadership election is over.

“I can envisage people looking deep into their hearts and saying: ‘Let’s go back to the British people.’ I don’t know, I am only making these points. Anything can literally happen given the personalities that we are dealing with,” he said.

 

With talk from both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson that the Brexit backstop is “dead”, Martin said “things are going to get said to try and win votes”.

“I think in the aftermath of that leadership election there will be a more sober analysis.

“Maybe people have boxed themselves into a corner out of which they may not be able to escape, that remains to be seen. But I think we need to be very careful here that we don’t jump the gun in terms of any premature reaction around who gets elected and what will happen once that person gets elected,” said Martin.

The next British PM

He said he hopes calmer heads will prevail in the mind of whoever is the next British prime minister. 

“I think the first reality for any leader is: power limits – there are limitations to power. Reality and circumstance will govern your behaviour and a no-deal Brexit will have a very damaging impact on the British economy…so, I think that will concentrate the mind once the Tory party leadership election is over and I think we can’t play into that game and play into the agenda that’s been set by the protagonists in that campaign.”

Martin said Fianna Fáil has always been “supportive and facilitative” of the backstop position, adding “we don’t believe in any knee-jerk reaction to a leadership election that is still in play”.

He said the UK has not proposed any alternative to the backstop.

“There should be no premature reaction to the British Tory election and I think there has been to date. People are playing into the hands of the Boris agenda. I don’t think we should and I think the British government put forward this idea of a UK-wide backstop and that was accepted and negotiated and no-one has put forward any alternative to that as I know it.” 

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