Thursday 19 September 2019

Editorial: 'Brexit means early UK vote - but a delayed one here'

Palace of Westminster. Photo: PA
Palace of Westminster. Photo: PA


Here's another one from the 'strange but true' Brexit department. The current impasse is likely to lead to a general election in the UK very soon. But in Ireland, the stalemate and uncertainty mean a general election will be delayed.

The relative quiet around this usually noisy topic is deceptive. Talks on a potential Conservative- Labour Brexit fix will resume this week while MPs start their Easter break.

Key figures in both parties will look at workers' rights and environmental standards in what has uninspiringly been described as "stocktaking". So, nobody is holding their breath on this one.

The odds on Labour helping Theresa May and the Conservatives out of the Brexit hole they have dug deeply are now very long indeed.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's goal remains the earliest possible general election.

Mr Corbyn will be encouraged by increasing signs that Mrs May's leadership is now hanging by a thread after her three failed attempts to get parliamentary approval for her EU-UK divorce deal. He will be further cheered by an opinion poll yesterday which showed the Conservatives' support has dropped, leaving Labour six points ahead. Failure to deliver Brexit is costing. One extrapolation suggests the Conservatives could lose 59 seats in a general election, stoking up more rebellion against Mrs May. But the reality is that the Labour Party is hugely divided on this issue also.

Many within Labour are angered by Mr Corbyn's deep-seated personal resistance to a second referendum. They point out that it defies party policy as voted at their annual conference.

But, as others have pointed out, most of the Conservatives also oppose another referendum. It appears unlikely that there is a majority for a second national vote in the current parliament.

This means that we are far more likely to see an early UK general election first off. Depending upon the outcome of that election, we may then see another referendum.

With this level of division and uncertainty, we are still left with the ridiculous prospect that, close on three years after the Brexit Leave vote, this one could still land anywhere.

Soon, we will be left with the question of a third extension to the Brexit deadline of October 31, as agreed by EU leaders last Thursday.

This uncertainty means that the spectre of a no-deal crash-out will continue to haunt us, bringing economic calamity to many countries, especially Ireland.

Strangely, the immobilising effect of Brexit on this island is rather the opposite: it dials down the likelihood of an early general election which now appears to be receding until 2020.

Going to the country sooner has its attractions, especially for the two big parties, but it may also be a gamble too far.

All indications so far suggest another hung Dáil, and the risk of another long process before we get some form of government. After the last general election in February 2016, it took 70 days to get a very shaky form of government.

Irish Independent

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