A Brexit extension could pave the way for a General Election in Ireland next month, according to a Cork member of the European Parliament.
Former Cork TD and current MEP for Ireland South, Billy Kelleher (FF), said that the people of Ireland will have to have their say on the current government, and that it could come sooner rather than later.
Mr Kelleher’s comments come as the EU granted permission for an extension until January 31, 2020.
Speaking to The Echo, MEP Billy Kelleher said that he hopes a deal can be achieved, adding that a deal or extension could provide the right time for a General Election here in Ireland.
“There has been a certain amount of political unity around how we’ve handled this issue,” said Mr Kelleher.
“The government has been given the dance to address the issues around Brexit.
“Michael Martin was very clear that while Brexit was an ongoing issue or threat to the wellbeing of this island, he would give the government space to address that and that is still being afforded,” he added.
“So if there is an extension, there are two trains of thought - you either have an election immediately and have a new government in place to deal with the consequences of that extension, or you wait until after the extension.
“But at some stage, the people of Ireland will have to adjudicate on this government anyway.
“I personally think that the sooner, the better.” Mr Kelleher added however that it would be important to know exactly where Ireland stands in a Brexit deal or extension scenario before an election is discussed.
“If an extension is called, it could last for several months, to deal with the technical aspects,” he explained.
“An election takes three to four weeks.
“If the political issues have been addressed and any extension is only to address the technical side of the UK’s withdrawal, then it could be time,” he added.
“But certainly, while there is ongoing political uncertainty, I wouldn’t like to see the country facing an election at that particular time.
“Once that settles and seems resolvable, then you could argue that any time after that is timely for an election.” Speaking about the impact of Brexit on Cork and Ireland, Mr Kelleher said:
“You would hope that a deal could be arrived at.
“There is no good Brexit so it's important that everyone around the table is negotiating in good faith.
“Clearly, a bad Brexit in terms of a hard border on the island of Ireland would have profound implications for the Good Friday Agreement, and for peace and prosperity,” he added.
“Looking beyond that as well, you could have serious impediments for businesses in Cork and further afield.
“The loss of the land bridge from the south of England to the EU could have a big impact in terms of access to the European markets.
“Of course, if you have a weakening of Sterling as well, it could have an impact on Cork and the wider economy bearing in mind we are a heavily industrialised area with a lot of multinationals and a big reliance on tourism from the UK.
“The possible impact of Brexit on the whole island of Ireland needs to be at the heart of negotiations to ensure there are as few impediments as possible in place.”