Johnson move the ‘most anti-democratic’ since Cromwell, says Minister of State

Michael D’Arcy comments came as other Government Ministers declined to be drawn on plan to suspend Westminster

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and UK Brexit secretary  Stephen Barclay at the Medef business conference at Longchamp racecourse in Paris on Wednesday. Photograph: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and UK Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay at the Medef business conference at Longchamp racecourse in Paris on Wednesday. Photograph: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

 

Irish Government Ministers declined to be drawn into the British controversy around the suspension of parliament, insisting it was a matter for politicians at Westminster.

In Paris, where he was attending a number of engagements including a meeting with British Brexit secretary Steve Barclay, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said: “This is a matter for the British parliament.”

He said it was “hard to tell” if the suspension of parliament would make a no-deal Brexit more likely.

In Dublin, some Government sources were taken aback by the sudden move, but others had expected a showdown between Mr Johnson and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit next week anyway. They acknowledged that the British prime minister had substantially upped the ante with the prorogation move.

Mr Coveney’s meeting with Mr Barclay at the Irish Embassy in Paris yielded little common ground, with Mr Coveney later expressing disappointment that the new British government was backing away from commitments made by its predecessor. Sources said that the meeting demonstrated the gulf between the two sides, but Mr Coveney later reiterated that the Irish Government was willing to look at new proposals for the UK.

The two men did not discuss the events at Westminster on Wednesday, officials confirmed.

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Later, in an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Coveney spelled out the Government’s position, saying that suggestions from Mr Barclay that border issues should be discussed later in the Brexit process, during negotiations on the future trading agreement, would never fly with Dublin.

“Essentially what is being asked of Ireland is to agree to a border away from the Border. And that’s, in layman’s terms, what the alternative arrangements are. You have checking systems away from the Border and Boris Johnson will talk about trusted-trader schemes, but the EU hasn’t agreed to any trusted-trader schemes,” he said.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said he wouldn’t comment on Mr Johnson’s intentions, but that the Government would continue to concentrate on no-deal preparations.

Asked if Wednesday’s events should prompt the Government and the European Union to move on the backstop, Mr Donohoe replied: “No.”

He said that the Government should stay “out of the fray” in the UK.

Cromwell

But Minister of State at the Department of Finance Michael D’Arcy broke ranks, describing the move as “perhaps the most anti-democratic decision since the Protectorate government, which Oliver Cromwell set up, was established.”

“This was a military dictatorship,” Mr D’Arcy wrote in a tweet. “Cromwell dismissed his Parliament when they disagreed with him.”

The Green Party called for the Dáil to be recalled to discuss the situation in the UK. “We cannot control the increasingly fraught developments in Westminster but we should have the Dáil in session to make sure that our response is debated in full,” leader Eamon Ryan said.

Mr Donohoe said the Government would “seriously consider” the request, and hailed the support from Opposition parties for the Government’s approach to Brexit. “We will facilitate any engagement that the Opposition wants,” he said.

Sources in Brussels said the move by Mr Johnson was likely to increase mistrust of the British prime minister there, noting that it comes across as a ploy designed to sideline parliament, though it is likely that the EU will stand back while the process in London works its way through.