Government ministers have rounded on Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin for “playing party politics” with Brexit for his own gain.
The ministers, speaking to the Irish Examiner, were responding to harsh criticism by Mr Martin yesterday during a 1916 commemoration speech in Arbour Hill, where he said Ireland is being pushed back in Brexit talks.
“A rising concern is that Ireland is now being pushed later and later in the negotiations, leaving a real risk that we will face enormous pressure to accept whatever is proposed, so that the financial settlement with the UK will not be lost,” he said.
Amid reports that British prime minister Theresa May could accept some form of a customs union, Mr Martin said. “We are concerned. I think we do need to see credible proposals around the border issue and also in terms of moving forward concrete proposals around the seamless trade relationship, North and South.”
However, his comments were rounded on by Tánaiste Simon Coveney’s office, as well as other ministers, who said they “smack of desperation”.
A spokesman for the Tánaiste said: “The Irish Government’s negotiating position on Brexit has been clear and consistent since the UK voted to leave the EU.
“I want to assure people that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are in constant contact with their EU counterparts, the Barnier taskforce and the British government, and the strength of the position they consistently hold has placed Irish issues at the centre of the Brexit debate in Europe and the UK.”
It was reported that Ms May’s team accept permanent membership of a European customs union may occur.
Ms May has insisted that the UK will leave the common tariff area, so it can pursue free-trade deals outside the EU, but one of her political team told a meeting on March 20 that she and senior aides “will not be crying into our beer” if parliament forces the government’s hand, a position that will enrage some Brexiteers.
At Arbour Hill, Mr Martin paid a warm tribute to former taoiseach Bertie Ahern for his work on the Good Friday Agreement, saying it “would have been impossible without his leadership”.
It emerged at the weekend that Mr Ahern walked out of an interview with German broadcaster DW when asked about the Mahon Tribunal.
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