Varadkar proposes summer 2020 election date to Martin

Agreed date would sidestep blame game for triggering general election

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said an election in 2020 would prevent any instability overshadowing crucial stages of the Brexit negotiations. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said an election in 2020 would prevent any instability overshadowing crucial stages of the Brexit negotiations. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has asked Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to agree to hold the next general election in summer 2020.

The Irish Times has learned that Mr Varadkar formally tabled the suggestion at a meeting in Co Kerry on Thursday evening.

The Taoiseach and Mr Martin met to discuss the ongoing operation of the confidence-and-supply deal, which sees Fianna Fáil underpin the Fine Gael-led minority Government.

They also discussed a number of other issues such as Brexit, the October budget, and expected referendums to be held on the same day as the presidential election later this year.

The Taoiseach proposed that such an election timetable, with the country going to the polls in two years, would prevent the threat of an election and consequent instability overshadowing crucial stages of the Brexit negotiations, as well as the formal date of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

It is also understood Mr Varadkar said an agreed date would remove any efforts by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to blame each other for causing the election.

Stuck to his position 

Sources said that, during the talks in Killarney, Mr Martin stuck to his position that the review of the confidence-and-supply deal should take place after the budget. The deal says a review should take place at the “end of 2018”.

Fianna Fáil sources said the passage of the October budget – on which talks between the two parties are due to begin by the end of the month – would guarantee “fiscal stability” for another year.

Mr Martin has said the Government can remain in office even if there is no guarantee of an extended term, but has also spoken about the need for certainty through the next stages of the Brexit process.

Others in the party have also said Fianna Fáil and Mr Martin have not spent years rebuilding their political reputations following the financial crash only to be blamed for causing an election at a time of national uncertainty.

A withdrawal agreement between the UK and the European Union, including the so-called backstop to prevent a hard border even in a no-deal Brexit scenario, is due to be concluded by October.

Brexit formally takes effect from March.

The withdrawal agreement

The withdrawal agreement, if one is reached, is also expected to include a transition period which would see the UK staying in the single market and customs union, but being out of the EU, until the end of 2020.

Mr Varadkar’s move would effectively mean the confidence-and-supply deal would be extended to take in a fourth budget. The current deal is due to be reviewed after the October budget this year, which is the third of the arrangement.

An election in 2020 would also mean the current Dáil would run for over four years, just shy of the maximum five-year term.

The next European Parliament elections and council elections, which will take place next spring, will come in advance of the general election.

At their meeting, Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin agreed to talk again in early September, before the new Dáil term, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 18th.