Leo under fire for ‘talking up’ prospect of an early election
FF: ‘Stick to confidence and supply’
FIANNA Fáil’s finance spokesman has hit out at the Taoiseach for talking up the prospect of a ‘cliff edge’ end to the Government’s confidence-and-supply deal with Fianna Fáil.
Michael McGrath said Leo Varadkar should stick to the agreement and stop trying to stoke up talk of an election.
‘It’s the Taoiseach really that has been talking up a cliff edge, who has been mentioning the word “election” and so on,’ he said.
‘We’re a party that entered into this agreement in good faith, in the national interest, to provide stability for our country at a difficult time.’
He added: ‘The third Budget is a critically important part of the confidence-and-supply agreement. We would make the point that there is no cliff edge here.
‘The agreement provides for a third Budget and then a review of the agreement before the end of the year.
‘So what we are suggesting is that we stick to the agreement that has been entered into.
‘We will certainly allow the time and space required following the agreement, hopefully, on the third Budget in order to review the confidence-and-supply agreement at that stage,’ said Mr McGrath.
The confidence and supply deal that underpins the Government provides for three budgets, the third of which is this October, with a clause that provides for renewal thereafter.
But recently Mr Varadkar has signalled he wants the deal extended before the next Budget, and could call an election if he doesn’t get his way.
Asked this week if a failure to renegotiate an agreement ahead of the Budget was grounds for an election, the Taoiseach failed to rule it out, saying: ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.’
After weeks of taking potshots at each other in the press, Mr Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will sit down to discuss issues such as confidence and supply and the Brexit negotiations next week.
But the talks are already on shaky ground amid what Fianna Fáil perceive as election grandstanding by Fine Gael.
Mr McGrath said if the TaoiFine seach were to call an early election on the basis that pre-Budget talks are not going well it would be ‘a completely unnecessary and over-the-top reaction.
‘He is the person who has brought this issue into the public domain in recent weeks without picking up the phone and talking to Micheál Martin,’ he added. Gael has signalled it will push for tax cuts for middleincome earners in the upcoming Budget, something Fianna Fáil is open to.
But the scope for tax relief will be limited as Fianna Fáil intends to press for investment and targeted measures to tackle the cost of living.
The confidence-and-supply agreement allows for the Universal Service Charge to be reduced but requires the Government to observe a 2:1 ratio of spending hikes to tax cuts.
Mr McGrath has insisted Fianna Fáil will give the Government the time and space to implement the next Budget, if it is agreed, and review the deal after that.
Fianna Fáil is currently performing badly in opinion polls and the party would not want an election this year.
Fine Gael’s stronger poll showing is giving the Taoiseach the upper hand in negotiations.
‘There is no cliff edge here’ ‘An over-the-top reaction’