Taoiseach must champion a Brexit extension within the EU

21 June 2019

Responding to comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that there is “enormous hostility” among European leaders to a Brexit extension, the leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD, has called on the Taoiseach to champion an extension in Ireland’s national interest.

Brendan said: “It is totally unacceptable for the Taoiseach to be talking up hostility among European leaders to granting the UK another extension before leaving the EU. On the contrary, when given the opportunity to address the European press, the Taoiseach should be stressing the benefits to Ireland and the EU of a long extension.

“The longer the UK remains in the European Union, the more likely it is that a softer, more measured approach to Brexit will take shape. There is also a real possibility that a second referendum might be held, which could lead to the UK remaining in the EU after all. These are possibilities to be nurtured, and it is clearly in Ireland’s national interest to avoid talking up a cliff edge scenario on the 31st October, the day before a new European Commission President will come into office.

“We all know that the June 2016 referendum was held in a very different context, before the detailed implications of leaving the EU were well known among the population. There was also a very clear division among older voters choosing to leave versus younger voters wishing to remain. Fully 70 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 voted to remain. There is a very real likelihood that public opinion in the UK will turn towards remaining inside the EU, and those in favour of retaining membership may already be in the majority.

“Ireland will be the country worst affected by Brexit, and the Taoiseach’s voice will be particularly influential in helping other European leaders determine how to engage with the new British Prime Minister. Leo Varadkar should be using media opportunities to make the case for offering the new British Government a long extension to prepare its approach to Brexit, in the hope that the UK’s economic self-interest will reassert itself. Talking up the possibility of a dramatic standoff in October may offer an exciting soundbite, but it does not further Ireland’s interests.”

ENDS

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