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Europe

Ireland's general election outcome unnerves Boris Johnson

Monday 3rd February 2020
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Over the past four years of the Brexit conundrum, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic has been a dominant feature and now, although the Withdrawal Bill has been rubber-stamped, this issue is yet to be clearly resolved.

Of course the friction between Ireland and the UK has been present for centuries, but now that the two are on opposing sides of the European debate, building bridges between the two becomes even more of a challenge.

As a whole Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, but Theresa May’s inability to return a majority in 2017 meant she had to rely on the backing of the DUP.

Subsequently, the current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been seen as a major player in Europe’s negotiations with the UK and it appears has been somewhat of an ally to Boris Johnson.

However, it seems that this could be about to end.

The Irish go to the polls this weekend and polls are suggesting that Sinn Fein have leapfrogged the Fine Gael party into second place.

Although there is often concern concern with regards to the politics of the Republic of Ireland and how it will effect relations with the North, currently with Brexit in the headlights the PM will be more invested in the outcome than ever.

Varadkar is a member of the Fine Gael Party and currently Sinn Fein are two points ahead of them on 21% with Fianna Fail only just ahead on 23%.

This is a worrying prediction for the party in government at the moment and has led to speculation that Sinn Fein could be set to enter a coalition to gain power.

However both Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin are currently refusing to accept this as a possibility, although that would be expected in the run up to an election.

It seems that the only way to keep Sinn Fein out would be for the two major parties to agree on a confidence and supply arrangement, much in the same way as the DP did for Mrs May.

These are worrying times for the Republic and Boris Johnson will be keeping an eager eye on the polls, to see who it will be that he will have to work with in the Brexit transition period.

Maintaining the integrity of the 1998 Peace Accord which brought peace to the island of Ireland will be paramount in any new trade arrangements and Johnson could be in real trouble at home and in Ireland if he fails to work with his counterpart in Ireland constructively.

Brexit may have been ‘done’, but it is certainly not ‘dusted’. The honeymoon period of celebration is definitely over for Johnson and Ireland is one of the major hurdles that the PM will have to surmount. He will be hoping that Varadkar remains at the helm to make his job easier.

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