Monday 21 August 2017

Six ways this UK election result impacts on Ireland

Independent.ie Political Editor Kevin Doyle looks at five ways the result will impact on Irish politics

Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A night of drama has changed the political narrative in the UK and will have major implications for Ireland.

1.     Leo will sit on his hands for a while

Since Leo Varadkar’s election as incoming Taoiseach there has been plenty of speculation in political circles that he might call a snap election of his own.

There are some parallels between Mr Varadkar’s and Theresa May’s rise to power in that neither led their party into the last election. Mrs May decided she wanted a proper mandate but the move has spectacularly backfired.

Mr Varadkar said he would be “glued” to the television overnight – no doubt he has taken some notes.

2.     We still don’t know what Brexit means

Theresa May has repeatedly told us that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – but her definition of Brexit might now be irrelevant.

Her main purpose for calling an election was that she needed a stable majority in order to negotiate the UK’s way out of the EU. Talks on Brexit were due to begin in 11 days. Whether that now happens is questionable.

And if Theresa May does manage to pull a government together it’s likely she will be pushed towards a hard Brexit policy. This is not good news for Ireland.

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3.     Talks on the Northern Ireland Executive are going nowhere fast

It’s been 100 days since voters in the North went to the polls in a snap Assembly election of their own. The DUP and Sinn Féin struggled to reach a deal on power-sharing and eventually postponed talks after the UK election was called.

The hung parliament in the UK is now likely to delay things even further.

The DUP hold the balance of power and may well find themselves preoccupied by coalition talks with the Conservative Party.

4.     A vote for Sinn Féin might be symbolic but achieves little

Sinn Féin won seven seats which should put them in a very strong position – but Gerry Adams said overnight that there is “no danger” of them actually taking up their positions in London.

The likely result of this is that their rival, the DUP, will have the numbers to become a junior coalition partner for the Conservatives – and pursue a Brexit agenda.

At the same time Sinn Féin is calling for an election in the Republic, even though it sat on the fence after last year’s one. All in all, it seems Sinn Féin love elections but not dealing with the results.

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Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams arrives at the Titanic exhibition centre in Belfast where counting is taking place in the 2017 General Election. Niall Carson/PA Wire

5.     Campaigns matter

The chairman of Fine Gael’s National Executive Gerry O’Connell tweeted after the exit poll was released that “If the Tories blow this tonight it'll make Keep the Recovery Going look like John Kennedy's New Frontier”.

Theresa May had essentially a two-pronged approach to her election strategy. She offered something “strong and stable” while Jeremy Corbyn could create a “coalition of chaos”.

And it was suppose to be all about Brexit. It was a serious misjudgement. UK voters already showed a penchant for chaos when they voted for Brexit 12 months ago, and it appears Mrs May hadn’t factored in a bite back from the ‘Remainers’.  Then there is the problem that setting the narrative of an election campaign is never as easy as an incumbent might hope. A major debate on security was never part of the plan but the terrorist attacks put in on the agenda.

Aside from anything refusing to debate your rival during the campaign is a seriously bad move that should ensure we get plenty of head to heads between Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin when the time comes.

6.     Good for online shoppers, bad for exporters

With analysts fretting over a hung parliament the pound has fallen dramatically. In early trading it plunged to a seven-month low and by as much as 2.2pc against the Euro. At the moment £1stg is worth around €1.13.

This nosedive is good news for online shoppers who will be able to get some bargains. However, the uncertainty creates a major problem for Irish exporters who will be hammered when trying to sell their goods into the UK over the coming days.

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