Simon Coveney: It ‘makes sense’ to go to polls in June 2020

Simon Coveney

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has confirmed that the Government wants to nail down a date for the next general election and that it would “make sense” to go to the polls in June 2020.

Pressed about whether he thought this would bring s tability amid the chaos of Brexit, Mr Coveney said it would be “sensible” if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil can agree a time for the election.

The remarks come after a meeting last week between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at which the possibility of fixing a 2020 summer election date was discussed.

Mr Coveney told reporters at the MacGill Summer School: “Nobody wants an election right now. Certainly Fine Gael don’t want it. I don’t think Fianna Fáil want one. The Irish people aren’t asking for an election. What they are asking for is for us to deal with the uncertainty of Brexit, to make progress on housing policy and health reform.

“The issues around the confidence and supply are really a matter for the Taoiseach and Micheál Martin to determine. This is something they have said they will meet on again in September.

“I agree with the Taoiseach that we need to provide as much certainty as we can. Certainly I think it would be sensible to agree a date for the next general election. And it makes sense to do that in June of 2020 but that’s a matter for the leaders of the two largest political parties to discuss further in September and they will do that.”

Delivering a speech at the MacGill Summer School last night in Glenties, Donegal, Mr Coveney also said the Brexit backstop guaranteeing a frictionless border in the North must be agreed by the October summit of EU leaders.

Mr Coveney said: “So then, what is achievable between now and the European Council in October? Well, let’s get a framework for the closest possible future relationship between the EU and UK, considering the ideas in the British cabinet’s white paper and guided by what will deliver most trade, most investment, most jobs, while preserving the integrity of the EU’s single market and customs union.

And as an absolute priority, the EU needs to see our backstop or insurance mechanism in the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol nailed down — to ensure that, no matter what, as prime minister May pledged again last Friday, there will be no going back to any physical infrastructure at the border.

The Tánaiste told the audience it was important that “the sweat and tears of a peace process more than 30 years in the making won’t be sacrificed at the altar of the most extreme Brexiteer ambitions”.

Mr Coveney also said he wanted to “put to bed the notion that there are any constitutional implications, or any constitutional agendas” around the North and the need for a backstop.

Disagreement over a backstop has arisen after Ms May suggested that it would not be acceptable under her new ‘soft’ Brexit strategy.

EU negotiators this week are meeting British counterparts and it is understood alternatives to the guarantee are being examined.

Mr Coveney also told the school that the North could be treated differently in any deal or negotiations.

“Aside from the unique architecture for Northern Ireland in the Good Friday Agreement — which is guaranteed by both governments — Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have different rules and regulations from England, and from each other, as a result of devolution,” he said.

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