herald

Thursday 14 November 2019

FG told to be 'election ready' as UK Brexit chaos could lead to poll here

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could call a general election if
MPs block his plans
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could call a general election if MPs block his plans

Elections in both the UK and Ireland are now a real possibility as Brexit uncertainty consumes the political agenda.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now expected to collapse his own government if MPs successfully move to block a no-deal Brexit.

While insisting he does not want an election, he said he would not seek an extension to the Brexit deadline of October 31.

Mr Johnson urged his Conservative Party MPs not to join Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in backing a "pointless" delay.

At home, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's supporters have been warned to be on alert for an election "at all times".

Timing

In advance of tough budget negotiations, Fine Gael headquarters has instructed constituency organisers to make "a major push" to order election posters "in the next few weeks".

The timing of the correspondence will be seen as significant by Fianna Fail as they prepare to lay out their demands for Budget 2020.

Both parties have agreed that their confidence and supply arrangement should let Mr Varadkar's Government stay in power until at least next spring.

However, the mounting speculation that Mr Johnson will go to the polls in the coming weeks is having a ripple effect here.

If Brexit were to be delayed beyond October 31, it could open a window for a general election.

In correspondence seen by the Herald, Fine Gael HQ tells members: "With the continuing uncertainty over Brexit, and the fact that the Government does not have a majority in the Dail - we must be election ready at all times."

It notes that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has ordered changes to constituency tickets since the local elections in May and the situation remains under "constant review".

It adds: "Whilst a number of constituencies have their election posters printed already, there will be a major push for all constituencies to place orders in the next few weeks."

Members are also asked to support two major fundraising drives which will take place between now and Christmas.

The party's annual dinner will take place three days before the Budget on October 8, while the 'superdraw' is in early December. The latter raised almost €1m last year and helped fund candidates in local and European elections.

Mr Varadkar plans to meet Mr Johnson next week but those talks remain up in the air until there is clarity as to whether a majority of MPs will try to block Mr Johnson leaving the EU on October 31 without a deal.

The prime minister said if MPs voted against the government and backed the cross-party Bill they would "chop the legs" out from under the UK's position in negotiating a deal with the EU.

"I say, to show our friends in Brussels that we are united in our purpose, MPs should vote with the government against Corbyn's pointless delay," Mr Johnson said.

"I want everybody to know there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We are leaving on October 31, no ifs or buts."

He claimed the chances of a Brexit deal are rising and he was "encouraged by the progress we are making" with Brussels.

Ex-chancellor Philip Hammond and ex-justice secretary David Gauke are among the senior Tories backing cross-party legislation which the group hopes to push through the Commons this week.

Reckless

If MPs agree to let the cross-party group seize control of Commons business, the legislation will be considered tomorrow.

Under the terms of the proposed law, the government must seek a delay to the UK's withdrawal from the EU until January 31, 2020, if there is no agreement with Brussels in place by October 19 and Parliament has not approved a no-deal Brexit.

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said it could be the "last chance" to stop a "reckless and damaging" no-deal Brexit.

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