Politi­cians are urged to steer clear of Brexit talk

TDs and min­is­ters warned to dodge Bri­tish me­dia ‘bun­fight’ and fo­cus on deal

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News - Laura Larkin

MIN­IS­TERS and TDs have been warned to take the heat out of tense Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions by not ap­pear­ing in the Bri­tish me­dia.

All eyes are now on Theresa May’s in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult balanc­ing act amid fears that fur­ther res­ig­na­tions could see any Brexit deal at risk of be­ing voted down by both Re­main­ers and Brex­i­teers.

DUP leader Ar­lene Foster con­tin­ued her of­fen­sive against the out­line pro­pos­als from Mrs May last week. She de­scribed the UK-wide cus­toms ar­range­ment as akin to hand­cuff­ing the UK to the EU, while al­low­ing Europe to hold the keys.

“The ‘new’ idea of a UK cus­toms ar­range­ment does not ap­pear to be a gen­uinely UK-wide of­fer but a GB of­fer and an NI of­fer badged as one — North­ern Ire­land in the EU cus­toms ter­ri­tory and GB in a cus­toms union,” she wrote in the Belfast Tele­graph.

In ad­di­tion to her on­go­ing woes with her part­ners in North­ern Ire­land, Mrs May is also fac­ing fur­ther chaos in Lon­don.

Jo John­son, who un­ex­pect­edly re­signed as a min­is­ter last Fri­day, has said col­leagues are “re­flect­ing hard” on their next steps.

The staunch Re­mainer, and brother of Boris, hit out at the prom­ises made dur­ing the Brexit cam­paign by those keen to exit the union. He called for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum — a po­si­tion which has been re­peat­edly re­jected by Down­ing Street. His res­ig­na­tion raises fears that other Re­main­ers will fol­low suit or be em­bold­ened to vote down a deal.

Yes­ter­day, Brex­i­teer Ja­cob Rees-Mogg claimed there was not enough Con­ser­va­tive sup­port to get a deal through Par­lia­ment with­out the sup­port of Labour. Bri­tish trade min­is­ter Liam Fox also is­sued a fresh warn­ing that Bri­tain may not agree a deal if a so­lu­tion can­not be found.

As the po­lit­i­cal fray con­tin­ues in the UK, Bri­tish of­fi­cials were due to re­turn to Brus­sels to­day to meet with their EU counterparts to con­tinue work on a po­ten­tial with­drawal agree­ment with the Ir­ish ques­tion still to be re­solved.

“It’s close but ev­ery­thing is hang­ing by a thread be­cause of the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the UK,” one diplo­mat fa­mil­iar with an EU brief­ing of na­tional en­voys told Reuters last Fri­day.

Against this back­drop, Ir­ish politi­cians are be­ing urged to stay out of the mix and avoid me­dia in­ter­views on the sub­ject of Brexit in the UK.

“We’re stay­ing out of it, there is noth­ing to gain from us to be in the mid­dle of that bun­fight. Our en­ergy is fo­cused on get­ting a deal,” a source said.

Mean­while, Ire­land plans to sub­stan­tially ramp up ef­forts to ex­pand our in­flu­ence “at every level” through­out the US post-Brexit.

De­tails of the strat­egy seen by the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent do not in­clude spe­cific ref­er­ences to en­gage­ment with the White House but it is planned that the Tanaiste, Si­mon Coveney, will travel to the US in March to launch a new Ire­land-US/ Canada strat­egy.

High-pro­file Congress rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors will be tar­geted in the hope of in­creas­ing the num­ber of vis­its here from the US.

BALANC­ING ACT: Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Theresa May

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