Monday 16 September 2019

Editorial: 'It's time for government to address well-founded fears'

"Yesterday, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said it was important to level with people. What is stopping him?" Photo: Reuters


For now, Boris Johnson's "sunny uplands" view of a problem-free post-Brexit has been temporarily eclipsed by the inconvenience of representative democracy. But only for now.

Observers across the water feel Mr Johnson may have trapped himself in 10 Downing Street by putting himself utterly at odds with parliament.

And when the stress of the situation gets to the point where the prime minister's own brother chooses to resign, citing a conflict between family loyalty and the national interest, breaking point can not be far off.

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So an election is coming, even if it is in Labour's interest for this to be later rather than sooner.

In the middle of a political earthquake, one has to take inordinate care where one stands.

Mr Johnson is trying to goad Jeremy Corbyn into going to the country, accusing him of cowardice for not jumping at the opportunity.

As Labour's Keir Starmer explained, the party has no interest in an election until Mr Johnson has actually been forced to ask the EU for an extension.

The party first wishes to ensure legislation to protect against a no-deal Brexit is secure - but how secure can it be?

Mr Corbyn may insist, as he has, that an election isn't a plaything for a prime minister to avoid his obligations.

Things are moving at breakneck speed.

The Labour leader wanted to know "where is the plan?" for Brexit.

The question is also being asked with growing urgency of our own Government.

Yesterday, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said it was important to level with people.

What is stopping him?

Yes, he is correct to insist the onus is on the UK government to put forward a backstop alternative. But when asked about any potential Border arrangements, he stuck to the now threadbare line: "As soon as we know, you will know."

Many are of the view the odds still favour a UK election on October 15.

Should the Tories win, they may overturn any legislation and press ahead with their agenda to be out by October 31.

They will fight on a platform of rigid adherence to no-deal. Mr Corbyn's Labour Party must be unambiguously remain.

Compelling as events are across the water, attention here must concentrate on no-deal planning. We are closer to the tipping point but no clearer on what it entails.

A good deal of the anxiety and tension building in this country stems from the awareness that we are locked in an interminable game in which we have no idea of the rules.

This week there were reports of ministers being taken aback by the scale of the anticipated no-deal damage.

Bad news doesn't get any better just because it is drip-fed. It is up to the Government to address well-founded fears. We may harbour no illusions of "sunny uplands" but we do need to be informed of what is about to rain down on our heads.

Irish Independent

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