Hard Brexit may not be on the cards, says Flanagan

Minister for Foreign Affairs says there is a ‘wider scope of options’

 Charlie Flanagan in  Stormont Castle in Belfast on Monday.  Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA

Charlie Flanagan in Stormont Castle in Belfast on Monday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said a “hard Brexit may not now be on the cards”.

Following the Westminster election results, he said there were a wider range of options on the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

“I think the situation now in Britain is such that there is a wider scope of options on the matter of Brexit,” he said.

“I think there are clear signs there that the initial hard Brexit may not now be on the cards. I think that would be good for us in Ireland. ”

Mr Flanagan said British Prime Minister Theresa May would now have to consult more broadly, with Parliament in particular.

British prime minister Theresa May’s weakened position in the House of Commons as a result of losing her majority in the British general election has fuelled speculation the Tories will be forced to soften their stance on Brexit.

Pressure on May to pursue a more cross-party approach to Brexit with greater focus on the economy is also growing amid reports of secret talks between Cabinet ministers and Labour MPs.

Scottish Conservatives’ leader Ruth Davidson, whose influence has grown dramatically with the election of 13 Tories north of the border, has already broken cover to say “this isn’t just going to be a Tory Brexit”.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said Brexit demands a coherent voice so it is “absolutely essential” that all sides in the North come together and work for a common position.

He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the DUP deal to prop up a minority Conservative government could lead to a “softening” of attitudes towards Brexit.

He pointed out that the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond had already indicated that Brexit negotiations should focus on what is best for jobs and business.

“The DUP wants a soft border, the Scottish conservatives don’t want a hard exit. The Customs Union is more critical to Brexit.

“The mood music has changed, The convergence of opinion has changed.”

Mr Martin said that that flexibility will be needed to ensure that all Northern Ireland citizens have their full rights (within the EU). He said he is much more hopeful now than he was before the UK election last week.

“At the end of the day it is important that a sensible agreement is reached.”