Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has suffered a double blow after it emerged Britain is seeking to renege on its commitments to protect the all-Ireland economy and US vice- president Mike Pence called on Ireland and the EU to respect the UK’s right to leave.
Late last night, the Government expressed its extreme “disappointment” at British prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision to abandon 2017 commitments to protect the all-Ireland economy and north-south co-operation.
In the Commons, Mr Johnson announced that he will seek to trigger a snap general election after losing a crunch vote on Brexit.
He said he would table a motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act last night. However, Labour indicated they would not support the move until chances of a no-deal Brexit were taken off the table.
Officials in Brussels from all EU countries were warned that Mr Johnson and his team are no longer adhering to commitments in relation to ensuring frictionless trade on the island of Ireland signed up to by his predecessor Theresa May.
During a 90-minute briefing, it was made clear the UK has still to bring forward “concrete” proposals on how it believes the Irish backstop might be replaced. It emerged the British position had shifted from one of seeking “frictionless” trade on the island of Ireland to merely having trade that is “as frictionless as possible”.
It was confirmed thatMr Johnson is to visit Dublin on Monday morning for a bilateral meeting with Mr Varadkar after he finally accepted an invitation to meet with the Taoiseach.
Mr Johnson lost his working majority in the House of Commons following the defection of Philip Lee to the Liberal Democrats. Mr Lee crossed the floor of the house while Mr Johnson was on his feet.“I have reached the conclusion that it is not possible to serve my constituents’ and country’s best interests as a Conservative Member of Parliament,” he said in a statement.
“This Conservative government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom,” he said in a statement.
There was controversy during an emergency debate when the leader of the house, Jacob Rees-Mogg, likened the “unconstitutional” attempts by MPs to block a no-deal exit to the days of Charles Stewart Parnell.
“The approach taken today is the most unconstitutional use of this house since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell when he tried to bung up parliament,” he said.Mr Rees Mogg told the Commons.
However, the Government was wrongfooted by Mr Pence who strongly backed Mr Johnson’s bid to leave the EU next month, deal or no deal.
During his visit to Dublin, Mr Pence heaped pressure on the Government by calling on Ireland and the EU to “negotiate in good faith” on Brexit.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “The United States supports the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in Brexit.
As the deadline for Brexit approaches, we urge Ireland and the European Union as well to negotiate in good faith with prime minister Johnson, and work to reach an agreement that respects the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and minimises the disruption to commerce.
At a marathon four-and-a half-hour Cabinet meeting at which preparations for a no-deal Brexit dominated proceedings, ministers were warned of the increasing risk of a no-deal Brexit.
It agreed that no-deal Brexit planning would continue to get “top priority” across all Government departments and agencies. It was agreed that all ministers should continue to engage in an extensive programme of outreach to stakeholders through the extensive range of consultative groups already in place.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will bring a further memo to Government in the next two weeks on budget preparations, including the implications of a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris warned that the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit is making it “very difficult to plan” future Garda strategies.
He expressed concern that a no-deal Brexit could lead to the collapse of co-operation between the UK and Ireland on matters like extradition, assisting investigations, and information sharing, and tackling broad issues such as money-laundering and cyber-crime.