Sunday 20 October 2019

May on the brink as Labour and DUP set to join forces

FG and FF row over Border plan as Brexit deal unlikely to pass

Uphill battle: British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday. photo: Reuters
Uphill battle: British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday. photo: Reuters
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The prospect of British Prime Minister Theresa May seeing her government toppled on the back of the Brexit deal is increasing as the key vote edges closer.

The DUP, which underpins her minority administration, is set to join forces with the Labour Party and other opposition parties in a bid to have the UK attorney general's legal advice on Brexit made public.

It comes as Labour indicated it will call a no-confidence motion in the House of Commons if the Brexit deal is rejected on December 11.

Hopes that Mrs May's persistent efforts to sell her deal, including the Irish backstop, will result in a surge of MPs favouring it over a no-deal scenario are fading.

Labour Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said it was "inevitable" that Labour will bring a motion of no-confidence in the government if parliament rejects the Brexit agreement.

"If she's lost a vote of this significance after two years of negotiation, then it is right that there should be a general election," Mr Starmer told Sky News.

However, environment secretary Michael Gove, who is a Brexiteer, said the argument for the deal can still be won, even though "it is challenging".

"We have got to recognise that if we don't vote for this, the alternatives are no deal or no Brexit," Mr Gove said.

MPs are set to begin this week with a row over the confidential advice provided to the prime minister by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

The British government promised last month to show parliament the legal advice "in full". However, this has now been scaled back to a statement by Mr Cox.

Mr Starmer said Labour would accuse the government of being in contempt of parliament if it does not release all of the AG's input.

A refusal to publish the text could trigger "a historic constitutional row that puts parliament in direct conflict with the executive", he said.

A key legal issue is how the UK can get out of a "backstop" provision that would keep the country in a customs union with the EU to guarantee an open border on this island.

Pro-Brexit MPs say the backstop could leave the UK tied to the EU indefinitely.

Meanwhile, in Dublin Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are at odds over plans for handling a no-deal scenario.

Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan has said the time has come for the Government to reveal what contingency plans are in place for the Border region.

"Now no one wants a hard Border but there are going to be customs checks and if there are customs checks there is going to be smuggling, and if there's smuggling there has to be policing."

He questioned how many extra gardaí would be deployed to the Border if the UK crashes out of the EU.

"We need the Government of this country to state that there is a contingency plan in place. We are going to need to recruit more gardaí, and recruit them immediately for the purposes of being prepared for a hard Brexit. It is a serious possibility," he told RTÉ.

However, Fine Gael's Neale Richmond criticised the Fianna Fáil TD for talking up the worst-case scenario. "It is absolutely reckless therefore to hear a senior Fianna Fáil spokesman undermine this ratification process with calls of additional customs and policing allocations for the Border.

"For the Irish Government to plan for customs posts in advance of Brexit would be a wilful abandonment of the hard work gone in so far, as well as roughshod treatment of the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

Irish Independent

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