Wednesday 29 January 2020

UK's political debacle adds to our Brexit woe

'In practice, British Conservative leader Theresa May has been defeated.' Photo: Getty Images
'In practice, British Conservative leader Theresa May has been defeated.' Photo: Getty Images
Editorial

Editorial

It is, to continue decades of misquoting the great political philosopher and sometime comedian, Oliver Hardy, "another fine mess". In fact, the big man in the Laurel and Hardy duo said "another nice mess".

But the key point remains. Since the early morning of June 24 last year, when we learned that the United Kingdom's voters opted narrowly to quit the EU, we have been faced by waves of confusion and uncertainty.

Last Thursday's election was expected to bring us some clarity about the road ahead. It has delivered anything but that result.

In practice, British Conservative leader Theresa May has been defeated. But she has managed to extend her now very tenuous tenure in Number 10 Downing Street, and in the Tory party leadership, with the support of the 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs from Northern Ireland.

Yet again we are reminded of the sterile and pointless political abstentionism of Sinn Féin in regard to the Westminster parliament. The UK's political confusion is compounded by the lack of a power-sharing government in Belfast.

And all of this at a time when livelihoods across these islands risk complete ruin on foot of a messy UK-EU divorce.

Ireland has made great progress over the past 40 years in emerging from the shadow of our larger neighbouring island. But our west-east, and north-south links remain crucial to our economic well-being, and now they conflict with our links to mainland Europe.

Mrs May's narrow majority, and threats to her party leadership, add to Ireland's Brexit woes. They heighten the risk of Britain quitting the EU without a satisfactory deal.

That would be the worst of all worlds for this island.

Another negative twist in our big housing challenge

Our housing crisis frequently appears to have a problem for every solution. It is without exaggeration a miasma of difficulty which challenges all of our politicians and policy makers. Yet we can find remedies.

Everybody agrees the core issue in our national housing and homelessness problem is the lack of supply of newly built homes. In about five years, we went from lashing up tens of thousands of inappropriate homes, often in the wrong places, to building absolutely nothing.

We are currently reaping the housing crisis whirlwind in a truly lamentable fashion. Our muscle-bound system of building homes is tortuously slow to crank back up again, tens of thousands of valid buildings lie idle across the country, and taxpayers pay through the nose for quick-fix and entirely unsuitable hotels and bed-and-breakfasts to take families off the streets.

Today in this newspaper, we report on a new negative twist in our tricky tale. It turns out that hundreds of new homes, built to ease pressure on first-time buyers and those hoping to move into better homes, are being snapped up by investors.

Statistics tell us that one-in-seven new homes sold since January 2016 has been purchased by "non-occupiers".

Investors also account for one-in-four of all house purchases.

Given a free market, that is not easy to stop. The answer is to continue building more homes.

Irish Independent

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