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Absence of a Brexit minister will cost us in negotiations


Cartoonist: Ken Lee

Cartoonist: Ken Lee

Cartoonist: Ken Lee

Who exactly is in charge of our approach to Brexit?

It's the biggest issue facing the country this year and is continually evolving.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will fast-track legislation through Westminster to grant parliamentary approval to Brexit, following a ruling in the Supreme Court in London that MPs must give consent.

Downing Street hopes to secure parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 by mid-March. British Brexit Minister David Davis told the House of Commons parliament he will publish a "straightforward" Brexit bill within days.

The secretary of state for exiting the EU said he would respond quickly to judges' demands to give MPs and peers a vote in parliament, but warned that the "point of no return" for Brexit had already been passed.

"This does not change the fact that the UK will be leaving the European Union," he said.

So the British are clear about who is charge.

What's the story here?

Our own self-appointed Brexit minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, appears to be dodging Brexit questions.

Despite being the 'Minister for Brexit', Mr Kenny has declined to answer a series of Brexit-related Dáil questions.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin posed a number of sensible questions to the Taoiseach related to the Brexit negotiations, such as the level of lobbying on bringing the European Banking Authority to Dublin and the territorial arrangements around Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough.

Pretty straightforward questions for the 'Minister for Brexit', but Mr Howlin is getting the runaround and being passed to other ministers.

"The Dáil is simply not being properly briefed by the Taoiseach," Mr Howlin told the Irish Independent.

Either Mr Kenny is in charge of the entire project or he isn't. The reality is he cannot be expected to run the affairs of Government and also have the time to dedicate to Brexit.

A dedicated cabinet minister for Brexit makes absolute sense and is an imperative. Without such an appointment, the country will suffer in the forthcoming negotiations.

During the previous government, the biggest challenges were restoring our sovereignty, restoring the public finances and creating jobs.

Mr Kenny saw the advantage of having Eamon Gilmore based in the Department of the Taoiseach, Michael Noonan and Mr Howlin dividing the Department of Finance and Richard Bruton's Action Plan for Jobs.

Of course, the Taoiseach had a vital coordination role, but he wasn't taking on all the responsibility.

Speaking of irrational thought, Sinn Féin is sticking to its stance of abstaining from taking up its seats in Westminster, so won't be voting on Brexit.

Given the choice between actually influencing parliament and making a point nobody understands, Sinn Féin chose the latter.

It's an irresponsible stance by Gerry Adams's party.

Meanwhile, the British prime minister has turned down an invitation to address the Dáil during her visit here later this month.

A blame-game is now developing between the Taoiseach and the Ceann Comhairle over who issued the invitation.

In diplomacy, you never issue an invitation that you don't already know will be accepted.

Let's hope there are fewer faux pas in future.

Irish Independent