Bertie Ahern casts doubt on David Davis’s grasp of Brexit

‘It’s one thing fudging a statement or communique . . . you can’t fudge a legal context’

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern is not convinced that UK Brexit secretary David Davis has the deep understanding required on the core issues.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has questioned UK Brexit minister David Davis's understanding of issues surrounding the looming EU exit.

Mr Ahern said the agreement reached before Christmas between Ireland and the UK in the first phase of negotiations “was a fudge”.

He said he had watched Mr Davis, the secretary of state for exiting the European Union, at the Brexit committee earlier this week.

“David Davis is a very interesting character, I watched him yesterday . . . I continue to have my doubts does he understand this stuff,” said Mr Ahern at a Brexit conference in Dublin on Thursday.


Regarding the agreement reached on the Border, the former taoiseach said “it was a fudge. I notice in the international press now over Christmas, while we are celebrating a bit, in fairness to the Taoiseach, he said people shouldn’t do that, but all the international press are calling it a provisional agreement.

“None of them are calling it an agreement. We’re still here calling it an agreement . . . the British are pumping that out, that’s where it’s coming from. I think we’re going to have to rerun all of that.

“It’s one thing fudging a statement or a communique, which I’ve done many times in Europe. But that now has to be put into a legal context. You can’t fudge a legal context.”

Customs union

Mr Ahern found it “hard to see” how negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU would be concluded by October.

“If it’s to include all the elements that it should include, if it’s to cover all the agreements that are in the EU and that they need to link back, how are they going to do that by the end of the year?”

Mr Ahern said he presumed UK officials have “worked out what are the issues they want in a future Europe”.

“But the question comes back all the time how can they get these things and be out of the single market and out of the customs union?”

Mr Ahern said he understood that polling in the UK on a second referendum would produce the same result.

“There’s an easy solution for the UK but they won’t do it. And that’s to stay in the customs union and leave the single market. But they’re set against that,” he added.

Mr Ahern would not be drawn on questions around the Eighth Amendment and the internal debate within his former party on the issue.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times