Micheál Martin: Elements of Irish Brexit strategy failed

Key elements of the Government’s Brexit strategy have “failed” and there should now be a push to designate the North as a special economic zone, says Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Delivering a speech at the MacGill Summer School, he took aim at the Conservative Party in Britain over Brexit and their “cavalier disregard” for peace in the North.

Mr Martin also wants the Government to stop spinning about Brexit and provide an alternative solution, as its attempts to prioritise Ireland have “failed”.

He reflected on former British prime minister David Cameron’s “disastrous failures of leadership” and his original calls for a Brexit referendum over five years ago.

We do not need to wait for the history books to understand that Cameron’s manoeuvre represents one of the most disastrous failures of leadership in a modern democracy,” he said.

“It is not just that the people were presented with a dishonest and incomplete question — it showed a cavalier disregard for one of the greatest achievements of modern democracies, the peace and reconciliation agenda in Northern Ireland.”

The Government here needs to “develop the ability to reflect on its own tactics”, said Mr Martin.

“We have reached the moment of truth on Brexit and Northern Ireland,” he said. “The choices facing us are starker than ever, the room for manoeuvre is becoming narrower by the day — there is no more time for delay.”

Claiming a no-deal scenario is “highly unlikely to happen”, Mr Martin said key elements of the Government’s Brexit strategy “have clearly failed”.

This included the focus on the so-called backstop and the “massive over-hype” on this since last December, as well as attempts to prioritise the Irish question.

Today, Ireland is actually the only point of significance still to be decided in the withdrawal treaty and the attempts to have a close-to-membership arrangement between the UK and the EU has manifestly failed,” said Mr Martin.

“I believe that a special economic zone status offers the best opportunity. There are hundreds of such zones in the world, and it is a concept which was developed here in Shannon.”

Both London and the EU would agree to special treatment for the North, which would “give it a competitive advantage”.

Mr Martin also warned of the threat to peace in the North.

“I believe that a special economic zone status offers the best opportunity,” he said. “There are hundreds of such zones in the world, and it is a concept which was developed here in Shannon.”

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