Martin accuses Govt of 'not being totally upfront' with people about no-deal border checks

Martin accuses Govt of 'not being totally upfront' with people about no-deal border checks

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has accused Government of veering towards no-deal Brexit border checks after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed checks on goods "near" the border will take place in a worst-case scenario.

Mr Martin claimed the Government has misled the public over the border checks risk. He also called on Britain to re-consider a Northern Ireland-only backstop or "special economic zone" and said another Brexit extension could "ward off the evil day".

At the start of Fianna Fáil's annual pre-Dáil think-in, in Gorey, Co. Wexford, Mr Martin said his party is holding back from forcing an election because it wants to act responsibly in the face of the Brexit crisis.

However, he claimed the Government has not been "totally upfront" with people. He said Mr Varadkar's confirmation last Thursday that checks on goods "near" the border would take place in a no-deal Brexit, shows they are inching closer to allowing border checks.

"I don't think the Government was telling us the truth last year when it adamantly said there would be no checks if there was a no-deal Brexit.

"Simon Coveney said it, the Taoiseach himself said it in the Dáil and elsewhere. They were emphatic there would be no border come what may and there would be no checks.

"That has changed in the last two weeks. The Tánaiste has said there will be checks somewhere, the Taoiseach has also now said there will be checks, so that is a completely different position to what has been articulated.

"We all remember the famous comment caught on tape between Simon Coveney and [Transport Minister] Shane Ross [at a Brexit preparedness launch in January] where essentially Simon was telling Shane to stay quiet, we don't want to be seen as the Government presiding over checks.

"Shane Ross was telling the truth at the time, although he didn't really know it," Mr Martin said, adding:

"The public are well able and capable of taking the truth on this, the time for playing games is over."

At the same press conference, Mr Martin said he welcomed Mr Varadkar and British prime minister Boris Johnson's meeting at Government Buildings today after weeks of delays to face-to-face talks.

However, while he said he did not want to interfere with events in Westminster, the Fianna Fáil leader said unless a breakthrough can be found Dublin, London and Brussels must consider a Northern Ireland-only backstop or "special economic zone" as a solution to the crisis.

"The one hopeful situation is Boris Johnson is in a tight corner now. He wants to exit by October, parliament has constrained him quite effectively even though there is talk of legal action and stuff like that, and he also has a situation with his own party where a significant number in his party won't tolerate a no-deal.

"There may be other options to avoid a no-deal, we don't know. But a Northern Ireland-type backstop I believe is still on the table. We have been saying this as a party for three years, that a special economic zone for Northern Ireland should be contemplated," he said.

Asked if he would be in favour of another Brexit deadline extension if no breakthrough occurs by October 31, Mr Martin said the reality is Brexit poses problems for all of those involved.

"I've just mentioned how bad a no-deal Brexit is, so it seems to me if you can ward off the evil day then go for an extension," he said.

More on this topic

Foster may mull ‘special arrangements’Foster may mull ‘special arrangements’

Letter to the Editor: The Irish question must be answeredLetter to the Editor: The Irish question must be answered

Rees-Mogg denies attempt to mislead Queen over UK Parliament’s suspensionRees-Mogg denies attempt to mislead Queen over UK Parliament’s suspension

DUP leader suggests she is open to Brexit deal which reflects 'unique' status of North DUP leader suggests she is open to Brexit deal which reflects 'unique' status of North