Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on Britain to outline its plans for the North and the border, as regards Brexit, ahead of an EU summit that will decide if trade negotiations go ahead.
Speaking at the party’s national conference in Cavan, he confirmed that Fine Gael is considering controversial plans to link people’s dole payments to their employment history. The shift in Ireland’s welfare system could reduce dole payments if someone has made few or no PRSI contributions, while someone who has worked all their life may get large welfare amounts immediately after losing their job.
At the two-day conference, Mr Varadkar said that income taxes will be further reduced over the next three budgets if Fine Gael remain in government.
Meanwhile, speaking just a few kilometres from the border, Mr Varadkar called on the British government to come clean on their plans for the North and the region, when Brexit goes ahead.
“If there is an alternative proposal from the UK side, we would like to see it,” he said. “It’s 18 months since the [Brexit] referendum; it is 10 years since people started agitating for a referendum. They must, at this stage, have a counter proposal.”
The issue of whether London can begin negotiating a future trade deal with the EU will come to a head at a leaders summit in Brussels next month. The bloc insists that Britain’s divorce bill, the North, and the rights of EU and British citizens must be resolved before that.
Any objection by Ireland would put back talks on the new trade deal until next year, and potentially move Brexit closer to a ‘no-deal’ scenario.
Mr Varadkar also promised to safeguard the rights of communities in border counties.
The Taoiseach and Education Minister Richard Bruton also launched a 50-page document, dubbed a ‘rolling manifesto’, on Fine Gael policies for the next decade.
The document looks at everything from childcare and working practices, to security and sport.
A controversial proposal is that welfare payments be directly linked to the level of PRSI payments. Some claimants would get lower amounts if they have a poor work history.
The Taoiseach defended the proposals, saying people with a full work history could receive most of their salary in the days immediately after losing a job. Such a system operates in Denmark and Germany, among other places, but it will likely be years before it is tested here.
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