Government needs to get its eye back on the Brexit ball

Cantillon: Email row has distracted politicians, but they need to focus on next few weeks

When the Republic’s political class popped its head outside its bubble it would have found that Westminster had agreed to pay Brussels a €50 billion divorce bill. Illustration: Getty Images

When the Republic’s political class popped its head outside its bubble it would have found that Westminster had agreed to pay Brussels a €50 billion divorce bill. Illustration: Getty Images

 

For the politicians – and some media – involved, the world may have stood still as the crisis over ex-tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe and the Department of Justice emails inched to its inevitable conclusion.

But of course, the rest of the world kept right on as if nothing had happened at all. That included the Brexit talks between the UK and EU. When the Republic’s political class popped its head outside its bubble it would have found that Westminster had agreed to pay Brussels a €50 billion divorce bill.

This issue boiled down to a number, so it was not the thorniest of those that must be resolved before EU negotiator Michel Barnier moves discussions to the next phase – the trade talks. Nevertheless, it should remind our politicians of what their priorities should have been over the last week.

The big issue in the current round of the Brexit talks is one that has serious consequences for Ireland as a whole, its economic wellbeing and for countless small and big businesses. It is of course the Border.

Domestic crises

Most observers agree that we have done well to get this to the top of the Brexit talks agenda and to keep it there. However, if domestic crises start to compete for the Government’s attention, when it should be almost entirely focused on this, we risk losing a lot of the ground that we have gained.

The Government needs to stay focused for the next few weeks. There is a key EU summit in mid-December. Not only that, the biggest opposition party, Fianna Fáil, also needs to play its part in keeping the ship of State steady over that time. Any mistake now could cost us all very dearly, economically and every other way, in the future.

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