Saturday 20 January 2018

'May took voters for fools and has lost hard Brexit mandate'

Tory leader Theresa May. Picture: PA
Tory leader Theresa May. Picture: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Theresa May took the electorate for granted and has lost her mandate to power a hard Brexit, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin said the British prime minister displayed arrogance and hubris by calling a snap election in a bid to increase her majority in the UK parliament.

"I think it shows the folly of falling for the punditry, falling for the opinion polls," he told the Irish Independent.

However, Mr Martin said the result of the UK election should ensure a better Brexit deal from Ireland's perspective.

"I think the capacity of the British government to deliver a hard Brexit has been reduced significantly.

"Within the Tory power those who are on the Remain side and have been quiet up to now…

"The prevailing view on this up to now was that people who put their head above the parapet got it taken off.

"I expect to see people like Philip Hammond and others flex their muscles a bit more now," Mr Martin said.

He added that the "moderate element" within the Conservative Party will be "emboldened" by the result while the Labour Party is likely to try to temper Mrs May's talk of a hard Brexit.

Mr Martin said the central role now on offer for the DUP should help the Irish case.

"There are probably different strands of opinion in the DUP. They would probably want to avoid language around special status but in realpolitik terms we already know from Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson that they don't want a hard Border," he said.

"They want a soft Border in terms of trade, the common travel area and the retentions of seamless interaction between Britain and Ireland for our citizens in the North and South."

In a slight on Sinn Féin he noted that the DUP now has the "only representatives" who will have a significant influence from Northern Ireland.

"The institutions haven't been restored and Sinn Féin has decided not to take its seats. That makes the DUP position, given the balance of power, critical," said Mr Martin.

Asked what he believed led to the unexpected result for Mrs May, the Fianna Fáil leader said the fact the Tories lost seats in traditional strongholds was "a reflection of an impatience with people saying 'don't take us for fools'."

He added: "All this talk about no deal being better than a bad deal - people can see through that. No deal is disastrous. The people of Britain know that. So in many ways the Tories insulted the electorate and that came home to roost.

"Once campaigns start the whole mood can change. Campaigns matter. The manner in which elections are called, the tone, tenor and nature of campaigns.

"One gets the sense that Theresa May calling it the way she did based on massive gains in the opinion polls and the idea of a runaway victory almost spoke of an arrogance and hubris at the outset which never left the Tory campaign.

"It also spoke of 'we're doing this for the party, not the country'."

Mr Martin said he believes the calling of a Brexit referendum "with so little preparation was one of the worst calls, if not the worst call, in modern political history".

Irish Independent

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