Government under pressure to name a Brexit minister

The Government has lost a key vote on a Fianna Fáil motion to create a Brexit minister, putting it under increased pressure to appoint an individual to the role in the coming weeks.

The Fine Gael-Independents coalition lost the vote, which also included calls for Northern Ireland to be given special status within the EU, by 77 to 61 amid claims the Government is “throwing in the towel” on hopes of preventing a hard border.

The vote to create a Brexit minister means the Government will now be asked to do so, contradicting the long-held view by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that there is no need for a specific minister to have responsibility for the issue.

However, while the ballot places fresh pressure on the coalition, it does not mean the Government will be forced to create the role.

The vote result came as Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesperson Dara Calleary warned the Government is “throwing in the towel” on hopes of preventing a hard border.

Speaking during the Dáil debate, Mr Calleary cited an Irish Examiner article earlier this week by saying Revenue is “scouting” for customs post locations along the border.

The situation was rejected by Education Minister Richard Bruton, who said it would be a “huge backward step”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the finance committee yesterday he was not aware of the situation until the report emerged and did not request.

However, Mr Calleary said that the issue shows the Government is now accepting the possibility that a hard border may occur, saying this shows the need for a Brexit minister.

Meanwhile, at a separate event in Dublin last night EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said that political parties must put on the “green jersey” in order to adequately tackle the Brexit “hammer blow”.

“Brexit came as a hammer blow, and while Ireland finds itself in an invidious position, it is taking to the challenge with steel in its spine.

“If ever there was a time for all politicians and parties to put on the ‘green jersey,’ this is it,” he told an Institute of International and European Affairs.

“Reinforcing old coalitions and building new ones is the correct way to proceed.

“The EU Brexit negotiators are mandated to pursue the broader European interest.

“The challenge for Ireland therefore is to, wherever possible, ensure that our national interest is built into the negotiating positions outlining the European interest,” he said.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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