Friday 18 October 2019

'Dangerous time' as May exit signals a hard Brexit

Future of backstop will feature heavily in race to find the successor to May

Emotional: British Prime Minister Theresa May reacts as she delivers her statement. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville/TPX IMAGES
Emotional: British Prime Minister Theresa May reacts as she delivers her statement. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville/TPX IMAGES
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The future of the backstop will feature heavily in the race to replace Theresa May as British prime minister.

There are growing concerns that the contenders to replace Mrs May in Downing Street will offer up a series of extreme Brexit promises in order to gain power.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described it as a "very dangerous" time for Ireland.

"In the next couple of months we may see the election of a Eurosceptic prime minister who wants to repudiate the Withdrawal Agreement and go for a no deal, or we may even see a new British government that wants a close relationship with the EU and goes for a second referendum," he said.

Mrs May's resignation was an admission that there is no hope of getting the Withdrawal Agreement through the current House of Commons.

In her farewell speech, Mrs May said she "negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with our closest neighbours that protects jobs, our security and our union.

"I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.

"It is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort," she added.

Multiple contenders are already jockeying to replace her in a contest that will see a new leader chosen by Conservative lawmakers and party members.

The early front-runner is Boris Johnson. Other contenders are likely to include Andrea Leadsom, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.

Sources in Dublin admitted they are very concerned about what the leadership hustings will bring.

On the back of the Brexit Party's strong showing in the European elections, they suspect candidates may take a very hard line on Brexit.

Mr Johnson said yesterday that if he wins the UK will leave in October "deal or no deal".

He added that a second referendum on EU membership would be a "very bad idea" and divisive.

"The job of our next leader in the UK, he or she, is to get out of the EU properly and put Brexit to bed," Mr Johnson said.

Speaking in Dublin after voting in the European and local elections, Mr Varadkar said: "Obviously as anyone can see, British politics is consumed by Brexit and will be consumed by Brexit for a very long time.

"It now means we enter a new phase when it comes to Brexit and a phase that may be a very dangerous one for Ireland."

He also paid tribute to Mrs May, saying he will miss her and her team.

"We worked very closely on issues over the past one-and-a-half years on Brexit and the North," he added.

"I particularly want to pay tribute to her to agreeing to retain and strengthen the Common Travel Area," he added.

"As a result of the agreement we made, British and Irish citizens are able to live, work, study, travel and access health care, housing, education and welfare and pensions in each other's countries as though we are citizens of both."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said her fate was "a reflection of the emerging and ongoing crisis in British politics as a result of Brexit and is a reminder of how unstable and potentially damaging this process remains".

"The coming leadership election within the Conservative Party has the potential to further destabilise the Brexit process."

Irish Independent

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