Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has claimed that Fianna Fail are "not to be trusted" as he criticised their MEP for proposing to vote against the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Speaking in Monaghan at Fine Gael's election launch, he insisted that Fine Gael had the team and experience to negotiate the next phase of Brexit.
Fianna Fail MEP Billy Kelleher has said that he is unwilling to support the EU-UK deal agreed as London is not guaranteeing the rights of citizens in the union.
Mr Varadkar said:
“I was really concerned to learn yesterday that Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fail's only MEP in the European Parliament, has indicated that he is going to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement. It demonstrates to me that Fianna Fail can't be trusted on the big issue of Brexit and also Fianna Fail once again is internally divided on a crucial issue. And I'm calling on Micheal Martin to explain that and explain why his only MEP is voting on the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Mr Kelleher has said he plans to vote against the deal in the European Parliament over fears it could erode the rights of Irish/EU citizens in the North.
The Ireland South MEP has told Tanaiste Simon Coveney by letter that he recognised the need to vote for the agreement, but had concerns about EU citizen rights. He wrote:
“In all conscience, I cannot vote for an agreement that is so vague and leaves it open for a dilution of citizens’ rights into the future,” said Mr Kelleher in the letter sent last week
The row comes at the very start of the general election campaign, which Fine Gael hope will focus on Brexit and the economy, including their time in government negotiating over the agreement.
Mr Varadkar and his ministers several times today, while visiting a giant factory for the company Combilift near the border, stressed that they had the best TDs and politicians to negotiate the next phase of Brexit, namely the EU-UK trade talks that lie ahead.
Mr Varadkar added:
“I want the next government to be in place, in time for the next council meeting in March and I believe that is crucial for the interests of our country.”