Saturday 21 September 2019

Cormac McQuinn: 'Lucinda Creighton doesn't speak for Leo Varadkar, but Tories will assume she does'


Lucinda Creighton. Photo: Mark Condren
Lucinda Creighton. Photo: Mark Condren
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

If you were Boris Johnson trying to get a sense of whether or not Ireland will blink on the Brexit backstop, you might think the views of one of Leo Varadkar's close friends is not a bad starting point.

After all, Lucinda Creighton has known Mr Varadkar for two decades and is a former Europe minister to boot.

Former Fine Gael TD Ms Creighton denies that she intended to set the cat among the pigeons with her suggestion that there must be a "compromise" on the backstop to avoid a crash-out Brexit.

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But that may well be the impact of her suggestion that there could be a five-year time limit on the measure to avoid a hard Border that the Irish Government and the Taoiseach have been insisting upon.

Last night, the pro-Brexit Guido Fawkes blog was already posting on social media about her remarks, pointing out that she was Europe minister under former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Brexiteers in the Tory Party and elsewhere are surely not far behind.

They have, after all, seized on any indication from the EU side that it may be willing to budge on the backstop.

Mr Johnson did so himself when he interpreted remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as suggesting he has 30 days to come up with a viable alternative.

Ms Creighton has known Mr Varadkar since they were members of Fine Gael in Trinity College.

And while she fell out with her former party and now works as a political affairs consultant, she remains close to Mr Varadkar.

Writing in a 'Sunday Business Post' column, she argued the backstop is "unworkable" and insisting on it is a "pretty futile government position".

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, she said that while she supported the backstop, a "fudge" on the issue in talks with Mr Johnson would be better than 80,000 people here losing their jobs in a crash-out Brexit.

There is evidently concern in Government circles at how Ms Creighton's comments about a time-limited backstop may be perceived.

A source contacted this newspaper in an apparent attempt at creating distance from her views, saying: "Putting a time limit on the backstop is like saying your house insurance only lasts for five years and after that you'll have to hope for the best."

It was also pointed out even a five-year time limit may not get over the line in Westminster.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys was also on the airwaves and said she disagreed with Ms Creighton's comment, adding: "We must have the backstop part of the Withdrawal Agreement."

And Ms Creighton herself? She says she's "not aligned to any political party" and hasn't discussed Brexit with Mr Varadkar recently.

However, while she may not speak for the Taoiseach, that won't stop Tory Brexiteers from assuming she does.

Irish Independent

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