· Fine Gael delivered a good deal on Brexit, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein a risk too far to lead off the second half
· Martin must immediately clarify FF policy which threatens crashout
It is only half time in the Brexit negotiations and, after Fine Gael delivering a good deal and preventing a hard Brexit, now is not the time to risk the country’s future by changing the team as the second half begins according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Fine Gael called on Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin to clarify his Party’s position on Brexit after FF MEP Billy Kelleher’s threat to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement in favour of a Brexit crashout on February 1st.
The Taoiseach was joined by Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Heather Humphreys and Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee at an event in Combilift in Annagagh, Monaghan.
The Taoiseach highlighted the critical juncture at which the Brexit negotiations stand:
“The UK will leave the EU on January 31st but that doesn’t mean Brexit is done. In fact, we’re only at half time. Next, we must negotiate a new trade deal to protect our jobs, our economy, our rural and fishing communities.
“Everything else that we want to do as a country – in health, in housing, in education, on tax – depends on us securing a good trade deal with the UK after Brexit. That deal needs to be struck by the end of 2020.
“Our team – me, Simon Coveney and Helen Mc Entee – is the only one that has the experience, the track record and the relationships in the EU to deliver that deal. When Fianna Fáil were in Government, they didn’t take Europe seriously, they lost crucial referendums, they didn’t maintain relationships and the last deal they struck with the EU was the notorious bailout which gave us FEMPI, the USC, cruel cuts to the minimum wage and social welfare.
“I am asking voters to stick with our winning team on Brexit. We have an opportunity to put a Government in place, led by Fine Gael, with a strong made to lead Ireland through the next phase of negotiations and deliver the best possible deal for Ireland’
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said:
“Brexit is still the issue that has the capacity to have the biggest impact on Ireland in my lifetime. I hope when people assess how the Taoiseach, the Minister for European Affairs and I managed the first phase of Brexit, they will acknowledge that we ensured there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland and that citizens’ rights are protected. Now, the future relationship with the UK must be negotiated, and negotiated at speed.
“The future relationship is not just about trade – it encompasses environmental protections, fishing, aviation, data, security and many other areas.
“We will work for the closest, deepest and broadest possible future relationship with the UK. We want an ambitious, zero tariff, zero quotas free trade agreement, with a level playing field in terms of standards, state aid and workers’ rights.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe added:
“Our capacity to introduce fairer taxes, invest in public services, build more social housing, and take climate action all depends on achieving the best possible Brexit deal
“Given that we have already achieved one Brexit deal, we are confident that the Fine Gael team will deliver this one too. However, we are not complacent. We are spending €200m this year and in the event that we are unable to agree a deal, Fine Gael will stand ready to support key sectors of the economy such as small businesses, farming, fisheries and tourism.”
Speaking at the event in Monaghan, Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD said:
“We understand that Brexit uncertainty has already had an impact on business. That is why we announced a special €28 million economic stimulus package for the border counties of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. We will continue to engage with the public and with businesses to keep them informed and to support them through the various Brexit loan schemes and Brexit preparedness tools.”
Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee, concluded:
“Our membership of the most powerful political grouping in the EU – the European People’s Party – places us close to the key actors, including Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier (EPP), Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (EPP) and Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan (FG/EPP).
“We have the relationships and we have the record to deliver in Ireland. This stands in stark contrast to Fianna Fáil. Only last week, Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher threatened to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement. If the Withdrawal Agreement falls, there will be a Brexit crashout on February 1st.”