EPP Commission candidates don’t have Ireland’s best Brexit interests at heart

01 July 2019

Speaking in response to news reports of the Taoiseach’s opposition to Frans Timmermans for European Commission President, the leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD, criticised Leo Varadkar for supporting right-wing nationalists over an experienced politician who understands and supports Ireland’s concerns in relation to Brexit.

Deputy Howlin said:

“It was disappointing and disturbing to read Leo Varadkar’s name alongside Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as those in the European People’s Party who have spoken out against Frans Timmermans as a future President of the European Commission.

“Borisov has faced allegations of corruption, xenophobia and threatening journalists and Viktor Orbán’s hardline, illiberal policies are well known. Their preferred candidate, Manfred Weber, comes from the right-wing Bavarian CSU, which is the sister party of Germany’s Christian Democrats and is more conservative than them on social and economic issues.

“The EPP has unsurprisingly failed to convince a majority in the European Parliament to back Manfred Weber as their candidate. It is quite normal that attention should now move to Frans Timmermans, who has a clear mandate as the Lead Candidate of the socialist group. He was the next highest ranked member of the previous Commission after Jean-Claude Juncker, and he is eminently qualified to lead the new broad coalition of four parties in the European Parliament, which now includes the greens and liberals alongside the conservatives and the socialists.

“Timmermans is well briefed on Ireland’s concerns in relation to Brexit and he would be a firm supporter of Ireland in the case of a disorderly UK exit, which could well happen if Boris Johnson becomes British Prime Minister.

“Ireland’s interest would be better served if Leo Varadkar avoided publicly supporting the right-wing of the conservative EPP group who are unlikely to support Ireland in a hard Brexit. The Taoiseach should explain what exactly this communicates about his own political priorities.”

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