Bertie Ahern disappointed at ‘dogfights’ with British over Brexit

Ex-FF taoiseach says Sinn Féin approach to economy and Europe growing more sensible

Bertie Ahern: “[The British] will increasingly get the backs up of the other 27, excluding Ireland, because we don’t want to get in - there’s nothing for us to get into a dogfight. We have to stay out of that dogfight.”  File photograph: Getty Images

Bertie Ahern: “[The British] will increasingly get the backs up of the other 27, excluding Ireland, because we don’t want to get in - there’s nothing for us to get into a dogfight. We have to stay out of that dogfight.” File photograph: Getty Images

 

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has criticised the British government’s approach to the negotiations on Brexit and said he sees “little light at the end of the tunnel”.

Speaking at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford, Mr Ahern said prime minister Theresa May’s government did not have an “earthly chance” of adhering to the agreement it had made regarding the structure of the talks.

He expressed his disappointment at the rancour and “dogfights” that had characterised recent negotiations with the European Union.

“I think we are onto a long haul. There is little light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It looks to be that the the British position is quite simple. They do not want to follow the agreement they have made. They made that deal. They went into negotiations. But I think they haven’t got an earthly chance of sticking with it.”

Not optimistic

Mr Ahern said he was not optimistic about progress being made.

“The British position is to try and roll in the trade issues into the rest of the negotiations and I don’t think their thinking is any more complicated or Machiavellian than that, that’s what they are at.”

Asked whether he believed they would succeed with that strategy, he said he did not think so.

“[The British] will increasingly get the backs up of the other 27, excluding Ireland, because we don’t want to get in - there’s nothing for us to get into a dogfight. We have to stay out of that dogfight,” he added.

“It’s amazing. The abuse this week on both sides has been as bad as it was before Article 50 was triggered. That’s unfortunate. I thought we would have that for a month or two but then that would be it... I think they should all take a walk in the park and calm it down.”

Coalition

When asked whether Fianna Fáil should consider a future coalition with Sinn Féin, Mr Ahern said Sinn Féin was developing more sensible economic and European policies but a decision on coalition would depend on its actions in future.

“I think Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and Labour will judge it on two or three things: what is happening in the North and in the powersharing executive; the policies they are pursuing, and the third thing - are they removing preconditions?”

He continued: “The last time they put forward a good joke saying if they were the biggest party [they would go into coalition]. Nobody including Gerry Adams believed that.

“If you ask me what I would judge it on, you are asking me my judgment. I would judge it on what happens over the next period in the North. That’s crucial. What happens in the North links into what happens in Brexit and that links into what’s happening in the whole island. That would be my number one.”