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Pre-European Council Meeting: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] Similarly, it is in our vital interest that the all-island agriculture and food safety zone is preserved, but this is much more complicated. What specific preparations are being made to preserve this in the event of no deal? I asked these questions of the Taoiseach earlier today and he undertook to give Members a briefing in the context of the stakeholders' meeting. That is not good enough right now. Parties in the House that supported a united position over the last two years and who have argued along with our colleagues across Europe need to be fully involved in understanding what is being done in the event of a scenario coming to pass that none of us want, which is a hard exit by Britain from the EU.

British politics is in a state of flux. In my judgment it is likely that Theresa May will survive the challenge to her leadership tonight, who knows, but it is unlikely that the withdrawal agreement will survive a vote in Parliament. I hear the Taoiseach being optimistic again. Right now he is in a minority of one in that optimism, but who knows. There is a real risk that a no-deal scenario will come to pass. I have said to the Taoiseach before that there is now a real risk that must be prepared for. A no-deal scenario would be a disaster for us. The Government must resist that pressure, which will inevitably grow as we reach the cliff edge.

It is a real possibility that the UK will, in the end, hold a second referendum to choose between the withdrawal agreement on the table, and the status quo. According to several surveys, the UK public's desire for a second vote has grown and public appetite for Brexit has declined as it has become unclear what replacement is to be voted on. I hope the EU is ready to support the remain argument.

Ireland received real concessions when we needed them after a rejected treaty vote in the State. There is every reason for the EU to show understanding, flexibility and responsiveness to the concerns of the UK right now. Without any compromise on the fundamental principles around issues such as the free movement of people and workers within the Single Market, there is room for clearer, better regulation to be spelled out. What was offered to the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, needs to be offered again and better explained. If those real concerns were addressed there is a real prospect of a second people's vote not only taking place but also-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach Go raibh maith agat.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Perhaps I could finish this sentence please. There is a real prospect of a second vote being successful. That would really be the best outcome for this island.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach Go raibh maith agat. The Deputy's time is up. Deputy Boyd Barrett is to share his time with Deputy Coppinger.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The Tory Party is in a mess of its own making. Its members have played with the fires of xenophobic nationalism, of anti-immigrant sentiment, of nostalgia for some imagined historical imperial glory and whatever else motivates these rather strange people in the Tory Party. They are tearing themselves apart currently. Frankly I am not sorry to see them do so given the dangerous politics they play with and the damage that successive Tory governments have done to working class people in the United Kingdom.

One hopeful sign from this mess is when Theresa May starts talking about the real possibility of a united Ireland. Even though she desperately wishes to avert it and while others speak of "my precious union" one has to acknowledge the possibility of a united Ireland. It is time for us to take it very seriously. While all of us would prefer some sort of resolution to prevail in the situation, if it does not prevail and Britain crashing out of the EU is on the agenda, then it seems that the issue of a united Ireland also comes very seriously onto the agenda. It has to be completely unthinkable for us to consider for even one moment the possibility of a border being erected for any reason by anybody in that context. This is not just the possibility that the Tories or the DUP might wish to erect a border in the circumstances of a hard Brexit: the European Union might insist on it to protect its precious Single Market. The Tories want to protect the precious union and the EU leaders want to protect their precious market. Ireland's position has to be to insist that from no direction and for no reason are we willing to accept or co-operate with the installation of a border between the North and the South. We should argue publicly that in the circumstance where that might become a possibility or threatened from any direction the people north and south of this island should have the right to express their will democratically in a referendum on Irish unity. Democracy and a commitment to the unity of the island should require that.

Another interesting aspect of the currently unfolding debacle in the Tory Party, members of which are quite happy to tear each other part, is that the one thing the Tories are capable of uniting on is their fear of a Corbyn government and their fear of a left wing government. This is the reason Theresa May will survive politically, if she does. As much as they are taking lumps out of each other they want to stop at any costs the possibility of a left wing Government. It is worth considering the significance of that, especially given the events unfolding in France at the moment. Among other considerations that would have been discussed at the European Council, the upheaval and elemental social explosion taking place in France is a welcome counter blast to the rotten politics that have been played out in the Brexit debate and it has been a very welcome counterblast to the terrifying development of the rotten rise of extreme forms of nationalism and the far right taking place all over Europe.

Although the yellow vest movement is somewhat incoherent, and while there are certainly some dodgy elements operating in certain places, overwhelmingly this is a mass movement of the poor, the dispossessed and the working people who are angry at social and economic inequality and the misguided, unfair and unjust priorities of the Macron government. These priorities were best characterised by the attempt by the Macron government to on the one hand get rid of a wealth tax and reduce taxes on the rich, and at the same time unload the cost of that measure onto the poor in the form of regressive taxes under an apparently environmental guise that would hit the less well-off. This is at the base of the yellow vest explosion. As I said earlier, there are some far right elements in certain places trying to take advantage of this and turn it in a nasty right wing direction but overwhelmingly one can see in the pictures of the protesters that faces are black, white, north African men and women. The demands they make are for economic and social justice, for an end to precarious work and for fairness in how the tax system works.

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