Varadkar - "no strong mandate" for hard Brexit following UK elections

The Fine Gael leader says the early restoration of power-sharing in Northern Ireland remains a priority

Varadkar - "no strong mandate" for hard Brexit following UK elections

Fine Gael Leader and Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar TD at Government Buildings, 08-06-2017. Image: RollingNews

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has said the UK general election result indicates there is “no strong mandate” for a hard Brexit.

Formal negotiations between Britain and the EU are due to begin in ten days time, however yesterday’s elections have left British Prime Minister Theresa May scrambling to form a government.

While a deal has been agreed with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that will return Mrs May to 10 Downing Street - her political roll of the dice aimed at strengthening her hand in the upcoming Brexit negotiations has backfired spectacularly.

When the Prime Minister originally called her snap election, many polls had the conservatives set for a landslide victory – with the Labour Party staring down the barrel of one of its worst ever showings.

However, a Labour resurgence towards the end of the campaign saw the party gaining 31 seats – as the Conservatives lost 12, along with their overall majority.

Brexit negotiations

Speaking this morning, Minister Varadkar said the focus must now turn to ensuring that negotiations on Brexit are handled in a “smooth and coherent manner to secure the best possible outcome for Ireland, for Europe and the UK.”

“The results of the UK election indicate to me that there is no strong mandate to proceed with a hard Brexit, which represents an opportunity for Ireland,” he said.

He said the Irish government is prepared for the Brexit negotiations – and warned that the early restoration of power-sharing in Northern Ireland remains a priority.

“There is now a strong opportunity for the parties in Northern Ireland to re-engage in discussions to form an Executive,” he said.

Special status

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams said the government now needs to “seize the initiative” and secure a designated special status for the North as part of the negotiations.

"Theresa May sought a mandate for Brexit, austerity and the erosion of human rights,” he said. “She got her comeuppance.”

He called on the Irish government and the DUP to refocus their efforts on restoring power-sharing in the North.

No upside

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he sees no “upside for Ireland” in the result, adding that it is “hard to see how a Conservative/DUP government will work as they have no good cards going into these [Brexit] talks.”

“Our own Government faces the difficult task in trying to support the return of the Northern Assembly and to avoid the worst effects of a hard Brexit,” he said. “The odds must now be on further elections unless some unexpected form of new politics takes hold in Stormont and Westminster.”

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce has also taken the result as an indication that there is no mandate in Britain for a hard Brexit.

Chamber director, John McGrane said it is now essential for politicians across Britain to set their differences aside and work for a deal that protects businesses, incomes and standards of living.

“This means striking a deal that will ensure minimum damage to the economies of the UK, Ireland and Europe that will allow for maximum trade and cooperation between these markets as we forge a new relationship,” he said.

Formal negotiations on Brexit are expected to open on June 19th.