Friday 14 December 2018

Proposed Brexit deal will be put to Dáil vote - Taoiseach

  • Proposed Brexit deal will be put to Dáil vote  - Taoiseach Varadkar
  • Said vote would give parties an opportunity to debate the so-called ‘Irish backstop’
  • Ministers meet to be briefed on the 500-page document
  • All eyes will be on London this afternoon to see if UK Prime Minister Theresa May can get the backing of her Cabinet
Photo: PA
Photo: PA

Kevin Doyle and John Downing

THE proposed Brexit deal will be put to a vote in Dáil Éireann, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced.

Ministers met this morning to be briefed on the 500-page document which it is hoped will break the deadlock in the talks.

All eyes will shift to London this afternoon to see if Prime Minister Theresa May can get the backing of her Cabinet to sign-up to the deal.

It includes a UK-wide customs arrangement that will ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Mr Varadkar said that meeting would be “very important and sensitive”.

The Taoiseach told TDs he was restricted in what he could say as his words “upend that Cabinet meeting” or making the situation “more difficult for the Prime Minister”.

However, he revealed that Irish ministers have decided the text “should be put to a vote in Dáil Éireann”.

Such a vote is not necessary but would give parties an opportunity to debate the so-called ‘Irish backstop’.

Mr Varadkar said if the UK Cabinet agrees to the deal this afternoon then it will be published by the EU Commission.

Asked by Fianna Fáil’s Dara Callearly whether the deal protects the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Varadkar replied: “My reading is that the Good Friday Agreement is not negatively impacted by this, in fact it is protected by the draft agreement.”

He said the Government’s objective “from day one has been to minimise any harm to Ireland and Northern Ireland” as a result of Brexit.

Mr Calleary said the deal would be a “seminal one in the history of this island”.

“Everyone in this House wants a deal. It is in the interests of the island of Ireland,” the Mayo TD said.

He added: “Nobody wants a border between the North and South, not even the DUP.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader, Pearse Doherty, welcomed the principle of an EU-UK Brexit deal. But he warned that the “backstop” as a guarantee against the return of a hard border in Ireland was vital – and his party would await full details on this.

The Taoiseach said the “backstop” was really the third option – which he hoped would never have to be used. But he was satisfied that Ireland had got the necessary guarantees in the draft deal.

Mr Varadkar promised to brief all parties on the draft deal and its implications but he was obliged to await the outcome of the cabinet meeting in London first. 

The Taoiseach also gave a direct assurance to the Unionist community in the North that Dublin would respect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the integrity of the North’s territory.

Ibec has welcomed the momentum towards the draft EU-UK Brexit withdrawal, but acknowledged however that significant ratification hurdles remain.

CEO Danny McCoy said that business needs urgent clarity on the terms of the UK’s exit.

"A ‘no deal’ cliff edge must be avoided. A draft withdrawal agreement moves the debate on and, if ratified, will lead to an orderly Brexit with a transition period. An agreement that potentially keeps all of the UK aligned to the EU customs union will help minimise disruption to business.

"However, big political hurdles remain. Any political problems that emerge around ratification will heighten economic uncertainty and force more businesses to activate ‘no deal’ contingency plans."

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