Domestic political turmoil renders the Brexit negotiations even more unpredictable. This time it’s not London’s fault

Compared with some other key leaders, Theresa May’s position is  looking remarkably stable for a change  as she flies into Brussels today for what’s being billed in London as crucial meetings with EU leaders including Council president Donald  Tusk. The Westminster lobby is reporting that she’ll be taking soundings over whether a British offer of a bigger divorce bill – £40 billion is being mentioned off the record  – would be enough to persuade EU leaders to allow Brexit talks to move on to trade talks at the full summit next month.

The big question of the moment is whether key figures such as Angela Merkel, in the throes of complex negotiations over her own and Germanys’ political future, and Leo Varadkar plunged into sudden crisis, will be in any position to take risks with the Commission’s three conditions for moving on. On the face of it this looks unlikely. She’s unlikely to be able to exploit others’ weakness.  When in doubt, politicians tend to go to default and that default remains unfavourable to the prime minister.  The best she might hope for in the coming weeks is a postponement of any final EU verdict on the three conditions. But that won’t stop the Article 50 clock.

The Irish Times online is changing its front page continuously. to reflect  the turmoil.

Senior Government figures are toying with the idea of holding a general election on the same day as a crucial European Union summit that will decide if Brexit talks should proceed to the next phase.

Such a scenario would see the dramatic prospect of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar flying home from Brussels to vote in his Dublin West constituency after deciding if there is “sufficient progress” for the talks to proceed to the next phase.

The European Council meets in Brussels to take the decision – billed as hugely significant by the Government and Opposition – on December 14th and 15th, and Mr Varadkar could wield an Irish veto if he deems that the Border issue has not been sufficiently death with.

However, one senior figure told The Irish Times an election could be held on Friday, December 15th.

This would mean the Dáil would be dissolved early next week by Mr Varadkar.

An alternative would be an election a week later, in the run up to Christmas Day.

There is no indication at all of a specific plan for an election date, however. Senior Fianna Fáil figures are increasingly resigned to a poll, with one senior source saying an election is “98.5 per cent certain.

In the present febrile atmosphere Irish unity is bound to feature in debate, however spuriously. The Irish News  quotes foreign minister Simon Coveney aspiring to unity in his lifetime.  Arlene  Foster noticed and slapped him down in a radio interview this morning in advance of the DUP annual conference.   In the Newsletter Sam McBride is heralding  the event with a big fanfare.

For an event which would normally attract about 40 media personnel from Belfast and Dublin, this year the party has accredited about 200 journalists, photographers and other media personnel – among them Robert Peston, Laura Kuenssberg and Faisal Islam, three of the biggest beasts of the Westminster lobby.

The Dublin government however is likely to be ultra careful on the unity question along the lines quoted here, despite many attempts to trip them up in an election campaign, when officials like Rory Montgomery will trying to steady  the ship. 

The Government had to be “very careful” not to take nationalist or unionist sides over the future of the Border given how debate in Northern Ireland tends to be viewed “through an orange-green prism, he said, but the focus should be on discussing the practical benefit of avoiding barriers “of whatever kind”.

“All this makes it tricky and problematic but we do think that there are pathways forward. We are hopeful that we can get there in the next two or three weeks,” he said.

The absence of a devolved government in Belfast was “extremely unfortunate” within the wider negotiations, he said, as Belfast was missing out on discussions with the Scottish and Welsh on what powers would be repatriated from Brussels to London post-Brexit and on to the devolved administrations.

“The total absence of a Belfast voice from that discussion is really close to unforgivable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • aquifer

    “The total absence of a Belfast voice from that discussion is really close to unforgivable.”

    I am forgiving the serially sectarian reckless and delinquent DUP nothing.

    They own BR-exit and now own the odious and futile cruelty of Tory ‘welfare reform’.

  • runnymede

    If we see the back of Varadkar and Coveney so much the better. Their irresponsible ‘green’ posturing has put Ireland at risk of significant economic damage.

  • Neiltoo

    Brexit is ‘owned’ by the 51.89% that voted for it.

  • aquifer

    The Republic does not receive a massive subvention from Westminster, so must look after its own interests, which do not include wanting to pay for a steel fence to keep out substandard imports from a duty-free UK.

    The DUP’s ‘me too’ red white and blue little England posturing has put us all at significant risk of economic damage, but don’t worry about it.

  • aquifer

    Not in NI, and a hard winter will further reduce the number of owners.

  • runnymede

    yes yes

  • Food First

    Another pretty boy bites the dust Macron the next while Mummy has enough problems at home Happy Days

  • siouxchief

    You do know the alternative is potentially the 2 Republican (FF/SF) parties forming a coalition?

  • Get The Grade Get The Grade

    FG are a right of centre, conservative party and would represent the UK’s best bet of receiving a sympathetic ear. FF brand themselves as “the Republican Party” and SF you know all about.

    Yes, Varadkar and Coveney are your best bet although, it must be said, there is a strong consensus among the parties when it comes to Brexit.

  • Sub

    I’m afraid Brexiteer logic is fast becoming the new flegger logic

  • Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

    The timing is only brilliant (sic). When the bozos in Dublin blow the Brexit negotiations with Ireland suffering the worst out of it and the GFA compromised, they’ll later shrug and claim it wasn’t their fault, they had to run an election. And so the “carnival of reaction” North & South continues….

  • runnymede

    I’d rather deal with the real thing in the shape of FF than posturers like the FG leadership.

  • Barneyt

    First reaction and you may find this absurd. The article says there is no voice from Northern Ireland. Is it needed right now? Is it of any use? Perhaps events have usurped the assembly’s future relevance and our future is maybe where it should be, in the hands of London and Dublin. London took Northern Ireland ( yes I’m being simplistic) and it’s Dublin who may have to receive it if it is returned. Who else other than a broker needs to be involved

  • New Yorker

    Is it possible the divorce bill and the rights of EU and UK citizens issues will be agreed and the Irish border issue postponed until after the trade talks are underway? The excuse of disorder in Dublin could be used as an excuse for postponement.