Election on the way no matter what the fall-out from Brexit

Political football... Taoiseach Leo Vardkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney with European Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, joined by Galway's IFA National President Joe Healy on their way to the Ireland/France Six Nations game last Sunday.
Political football... Taoiseach Leo Vardkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney with European Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, joined by Galway's IFA National President Joe Healy on their way to the Ireland/France Six Nations game last Sunday.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It seems like a broken record at this stage – but clearly this has been another seismic week on the Brexit front, with last-minute deals on the European front and edge-of-the-seat votes back in Westminster.  And at the centre of it all remains the backstop; even after the EU talks, the withdrawal agreement itself hasn’t been changed but British Prime Minister Theresa May was clinging to concessions in a protocol.

The EU says it is complementary to the withdrawal agreement. May says it is a legal document with the same status. The important thing from her perspective is that it does give the UK the power to unilaterally withdraw from the backstop, albeit after jumping through a large number of loops.

All of that overshadows my original intention this week, which was to guess when the next general election will be held and what it would mean.

I had started on the basis there would be no deal struck this week and that Westminster would then have had to votes on two other issues.

The first, to take place yesterday (Wednesday), was to exit the EU without a deal, which would be a disaster.

In my view, until this week, the most likely scenario was that the third vote – to take place today (Thursday) – would pass, which would delay Brexit for six months.

Now following the dramatic late night in Strasbourg it looks like the prospect of Britain actually exiting the EU on March 29 with a deal has moved back into view.

In any instance, it copper-fastens my belief that a general election will take place this year – possibly in October or November.

Fianna Fáil agreed to extend the confidence and supply deal for another year because it was such a sensitive period of the Brexit negotiations. But the question was if Brexit was still unresolved after the budget, would confidence and supply be extended for another year?

The answer that has emerged to that in recent weeks is No. When that agreement was first brokered between the two biggest parties I thought it was a clever ruse for both to maintain their standing and status… a third way.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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