Micheál Martin: Irish unity even more important after Brexit ‘setback’

Micheál Martin: Irish unity even more important after Brexit ‘setback’
Fianna Fail party leader Micheál Martin TD. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said the current chaos in the UK parliament highlights the need for continued unity in Irish politics.

Speaking to The Echo in the aftermath of another Brexit deal defeat for British prime minister Theresa May, Mr Martin said: “I think it is very disappointing and a significant setback.

“It illustrates the absence of coherence in the British parliament, in sharp contrast to the Oireachtas.

“When I made the decision not to have a General election in December it was because I thought anything could happen in the British parliament, and it has come to pass.”

Mr Martin believes an extension to Brexit negotiations is required but warned that Ireland needed to prepare for the worst.

“No deal will be catastrophic for the UK but also catastrophic for Ireland and I don’t think we are fully prepared, there is a lot more to do,” he said. “We know the agri-food industry will be severely hit, as will small to medium industries exporting to Britain.”

He called for everyone involved to take a step back and work out how to proceed. “Certainly in Britain they need that space and time, the Tory party has nowhere near coherence.”

British MPs voted by 391 to 242 last night against the Brexit deal, despite Ms May’s assurance that new agreements would ensure the UK cannot be trapped in the controversial Northern Ireland backstop arrangement indefinitely.

Although the 149 margin was reduced from the record 230-vote defeat of the first “meaningful vote” in January, Ms May was left far adrift from a majority with just 17 days to go to the scheduled date of Brexit on March 29.

European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker had already warned there would be “no third chance” to renegotiate.

MPs are due to vote today on whether they are willing for the UK to leave the EU without a deal on March 29. If they reject no-deal as most Westminster observers expect, a third vote will follow, probably on Thursday, on authorising Ms May to request an extension of the negotiation process.

An extension requires the unanimous agreement of all 27 remaining member states, and Mr Juncker has warned that it cannot stretch beyond May 23 unless the UK takes part in the European Parliament elections starting on that date.

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