Saturday 19 October 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'While we've had our backs turned on Brexit, they've gone and made it worse'

Talks collapsed: Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn outside his home in London this week. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville
Talks collapsed: Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn outside his home in London this week. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Wake up. It's time to tune back in for the next instalment of Brexit. After months of intense talks and House of Commons meltdowns, most of us sane people have enjoyed the small break from the daily Brexit warfare. But while we were looking elsewhere, at the cost of rural broadband or Leo Varadkar busking in Limerick, there have been a few major developments. None of them has been good.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is now definitely in her final days at Number 10. This time it seems she really is for the door.

Nigel Farage is back, commanding almost hourly slots in the UK media while simultaneously ignoring any pertinent questions being asked by the same media.

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Boris Johnson has announced he's going to make another tilt at leading the nation to freedom.

And any faint hopes we ever had that Mrs May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could reach a compromise on a soft Brexit have combusted.

In other words, while we took our eyes off Brexit, they made it even worse.

Responding to the collapse of talks between May and Corbyn, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "This is a very serious development. It's a very negative development, unfortunately so the Government is reviewing the situation."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney was equally blunt: "I am not going to sugar-coat this. This is a very negative development. It adds even more uncertainty to what is already a very difficult political challenge in Westminster as a collective."

He added: "What I will say is that we are running out of time now."

The UK goes to the polls in its unplanned European elections on Thursday. The outcome of that vote is likely to make the scenario even more complicated. Polls suggest all of the fears raised about a Brexit extension by the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron are coming to pass.

They haven't used the extra time to sort out their own mess and now the European Parliament is going to be flooded with mini-Farages.

Mr Corbyn said the negotiations have "gone as far as they can" due to the instability of Mrs May's government and its refusal to fundamentally shift its position.

"We have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us," he said.

Labour will now oppose the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Irish backstop, when it comes back before parliament early next month.

Mrs May's hands have been tied, knowing that to make concessions to Labour would lead to fury in her already divided party. Labour has feared any compromises on issues such as workers' rights would be torn up by Mrs May's successor.

In Fermanagh, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay acknowledged the disruption a no-deal scenario would cause but argued it would be better than cancelling Brexit.

Our own EU elections have not been as focused on Brexit as we might have imaged - but as we head into the final week of campaigning the spectre of no-deal is back on the table.

They won't crash out until October so it's not time to panic - but definitely time to put Brexit back on the agenda.

Irish Independent

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