Com­ing days will be defin­ing pe­riod for Varad­kar and Ir­ish-UK re­la­tions

Wexford People - - OPINION -

HAV­ING just about weath­ered a po­lit­i­cal storm at home, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar is fac­ing into a tense 10 days that have the po­ten­tial to not only de­fine his pre­mier­ship but shape the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ire­land and the UK for decades to come.

Varad­kar – who finds him­self se­verely weak­ened po­lit­i­cally thanks to his han­dling of the McCabe email af­fair – badly needs a win and suc­cess for Ire­land in next week’s crunch Brexit talks could help him sal­vage his author­ity af­ter what has been a hugely dam­ag­ing month.

In re­cent week’s the Gov­ern­ment has come in for se­vere crit­i­cism – not just over the McCabe-Fitzger­ald email scan­dal but also its han­dling of the hous­ing cri­sis, jus­tice and health.

Much of this crit­i­cism ap­pears war­ranted but amidst the raft of scan­dals it should be ac­knowl­edged that the Gov­ern­ment has han­dled the Brexit bor­der ne­go­ti­a­tions with con­sid­er­able skill.

There were well-founded fears that the bor­der would be­come a side is­sue that Europe’s lead­ers would be will­ing to sacri­fice in order to se­cure an am­i­ca­ble di­vorce set­tle­ment with the UK.

Thanks to the ef­forts of the Gov­ern­ment – adeptly led by Si­mon Coveney who has ac­quit­ted him­self well since tak­ing on the For­eign Af­fairs port­fo­lio – the bor­der is­sue has be­come cen­tral to the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Ire­land has se­cured strong back­ing from our EU part­ners and as a re­sult we finds our­selves in ar­guably our strong­est po­si­tion ever go­ing into ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Bri­tish es­tab­lish­ment.

Any­one who doubts how strong Ire­land’s po­si­tion is should take a look at the pro-Brexit me­dia in the UK.

Seem­ingly un­will­ing to ad­mit or ac­knowl­edge that the Repub­lic of Ire­land is an in­de­pen­dent na­tion, many of these opinion out­lets are aghast that the Ir­ish would have the temer­ity to chal­lenge their Im­pe­rial bet­ters.

This out­rage masks a deep fear that, for once, Ire­land has the power and in­flu­ence to dic­tate pol­icy to Bri­tain. It is a re­mark­able self-in­flicted turn­around for the jin­go­is­tic Brex­i­teers who still cling to the mis­guided no­tion that Bri­tain re­mains an Im­pe­rial power.

The Bri­tish es­tab­lish­ment’s lack of in­ter­est in Ire­land and the con­de­scen­sion they have dis­played to­wards our na­tion looks set to re­bound on the Brex­i­teers in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion.

This, of course, is all pro­vided that our EU part­ners keep their word and back Ire­land’s po­si­tion as they have promised. That re­mains to be seen but, at present, a be­trayal ap­pears un­likely.

Even if the EU was to break its pledge on back­ing Ire­land, Mr Varad­kar still has the nu­clear op­tion of a veto up his sleeve.

As we have seen very re­cently, a week is a very long time in pol­i­tics. How­ever, as things stand, Ire­land holds a very strong hand as Bri­tain and the EU strive to reach phase two of the Brexit di­vorce.

The Gov­ern­ment has, thus far, man­aged the Brexit talks with great skill in the face of tremen­dous un­cer­tainty. The talks are Ire­land’s to lose and we may be on course to wit­ness the most dra­matic change in An­glo Ir­ish re­la­tions for gen­er­a­tions.

We truly are liv­ing in in­ter­est­ing times.

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