Miriam Lord: Everything ‘grand’ for Varadkar amid Brexit chaos
‘Le Brexit, mon ami? It will be very difficult, no?’ asks Macron
Some light relief from Danny Healy-Rae to take everyone’s mind off Brexit when he called for the army to be mobilised to deal with the epidemic of wandering deer in Kerry.
“People are facing turmoil and tears on the roads,” he declared. Bambi and friends have “taken over” towns and villages and estates around Killarney.
They are running riot, causing accidents and damaging cars and leaving “young fellas crying” after paying dearly for their insurance and having these animals causing chaos.
He urged the Taoiseach to call out the army, echoing a call made by his brother in the Dáil a number of years ago when he sought military intervention to tackle the spread of rampant rhododendron in the Killarney area.
Leo passed the request onto his line minister, Josepha Madigan, who said there is a cull happening at the moment.
Danny wasn’t happy with the response. We haven’t heard the last of this.
But as a rule, as a people, we don’t like to make a fuss, especially in front of the neighbours.
So the president of France, brimming with bonhomie, comes beetling over to the Taoiseach in Brussels.
“Aaah, Leo. What is it you Irish say? ’Ow is it cutting?”
“Very amusing, Emmanuel. Although it’s not the sort of thing I would say. Anyway, it’s grand. Everything is grand.”
Monsieur Macron, concern in his eyes, gives Leo a sideways look. He tries again. “Le Brexit, mon ami? It will be very difficult, no? You will be OK in Ireland?”
Leo shrugs his shoulders and smiles. “Honestly, we can cope. It’ll be grand. We’ll be grand. Grand, grand, grand. Thanks.”
“Well, if you say so, Leo. . . ”
The Taoiseach wasn’t the only Irish political leader beyond in Europe last week for the big Brexit showdown. The leader of Fianna Fáil was in town too, and he was at a lot of meetings and met heaps of people and did a whole lot of moving and shaking on the margins.
Micheál Martin left Brussels with a terrible sense of forboding and it wasn’t only because he forgot to take a selfie of himself at the Manneken Pis statue for the Facebook.
He was worried – and grew increasingly so over the weekend – because of things he heard about what Leo said at the European Council when mingling with the prime ministers at the EU Summit. He was worried and he raised his concerns at the first opportunity in the Dáil.
He said he believed Macron had asked him what would happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Apparently he wanted to know “would you be fine?” Not Leo, but the country.
As questions go, Micheál thought this one was “probably the overstatement of the week”.
It has been reported that the Taoiseach informed him “we can cope”.
“Now, you haven’t denied this over the weekend,” noted the Fianna Fáil leader, who said he was worried that Macron would even ask such a question.
Micheál said he “got a sense” during his stay in Brussels last week that the other countries were getting fed up with Brexit and the major effort being expended on trying to prevent a no-deal backstop. These countries are nearing the stage where they want to “get rid” of Brexit and move on to the next business.
If the Taoiseach is telling people everything is fine, then they won’t appreciate the great threat posed to Ireland by a disorderly Brexit and leave us in the lurch because they think we’re grand. Sure didn’t Leo tell them so?
“There is no such thing as a good Brexit,” said Micheál.
The Taoiseach thoroughly agrees, which is why he repeated the line, while also not denying that he told Emmanuel we are all doing fine over here.
While the latest ESRI report makes for sobering reading, predicting massive job losses and a downturn in the economy in the event of a hard Brexit, it isn’t all bad.
“There is no such thing as a good Brexit for Ireland,” he said, but we will cope.
The future landscape may have changed, but in the place of sunny uplands the Taoiseach was promising pleasantly dappled drumlins amid the ruts.
There will still be opportunities, he said, but should the worst happen, there will be “more downsides than upsides”.
But the economy will continue to grow – but not as much, there will be more jobs – just not as many and income will rise – but not as quickly as would be expected with a Brexit deal.
“We would move from a small surplus into a small deficit.”
But the Taoiseach stressed that the problems brought about by a no-deal Brexit should not be underestimated.
The Labour leader was very worried about the damage a no-deal outcome scenario would do to the economy and its impact on jobs and livelihoods. The government must move to protect jobs and business by putting supports in place such as loans and a direct subsidies.
“We have been putting endless supports in place. . . ” the Taoiseach told Brendan Howlin.
“Well, not endless, but substantial.”
The thing is, Leo told him, the Government will do what it has to do to alleviate the worst effects of a hard Brexit. He doesn’t want people to think that there is loads of money out there for this, it will have to be borrowed.
But so be it.
“We may never see a no-deal Brexit but yet we have done all these things in case it ever happens.”
Leo and his people talk up a great no-deal game.
But the whisper around Leinster House is that this is one bluff nobody in and around government wants to see called.