Taoiseach rules out snap election due to Brexit ‘uncertainty’
Statement follows internal Fine Gael speculation that there could be a pre-Christmas poll
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out a pre-Christmas election.
Now is not the time for a general election as too much uncertainty still surrounds Brexit, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin, he said a pre-Christmas poll was not in the interests of the country.
Mr Varadkar said the Brexit process was ongoing and the UK general election could see different parties and a new prime minister holding power at Westminster.
“I don’t think it is the right thing for the country given the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit,” he said.
“We don’t know what is going to happen on December 12th.
“Perhaps Mr Johnson is going to win a majority and ratify the deal before Christmas and we get into talks on the future relationship, but it is also possible that the Brexit Party could hold power and we may not get the deal ratified and a hard Brexit could happen.
“We could see a new government and we may get a new prime minister who wants to reopen negotiations entirely and negotiate a softer Brexit.”
Mr Varadkar previously said he favours an election in May 2020.
When asked if he would like to see Boris Johnson remain as prime minister after they had both worked to reach a Brexit deal, he said: “I’m not going to express an opinion on who should win the election in the UK; that is absolutely a matter for the people who vote in those elections.
“I really do hope that a new House of Commons is in a position to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.
“So far, Boris Johnson is the only one who wants to ratify the agreement... It is what I want but I also respect the will of the British people, no matter who is the prime minister and what government they decide to elect.”
Earlier, Mr Varadkar told his Fine Gael Ministers there will not be a pre-Christmas general election.
He made the comments at the weekly pre-Cabinet meeting of Fine Gael Ministers. No Fine Gael Minister disagreed with the Taoiseach’s view at the meeting.
Although many of his ministers have lobbied for an early election, Mr Varadkar has been consistent, in public at least, in his own position that it should be held in May 2020.
Mr Varadkar’s comments follow several days of internal Fine Gael speculation about the possibility of a pre-Christmas election with many in the party believing the party’s fortunes are riding high now.
Some Fine Gael TDs were keen on a snap election to capitalise on the new Brexit deal and the discomfort in Fianna Fáil over ‘Votegate’ (where TDs voted for colleagues who were present in the Dáil chamber but who were not in their designated seats)and the uncertain outcome for Government TDs in the four by-elections to be held next month.
Many in Fine Gael are also mindful of Enda Kenny’s decision in October 2015 to delay the last election until the following spring. As one senior Fine Gael figure said: “He rued the day of not going early. We will never get as good a chance. By January, the kudos will not last.”
Four byelections are set to be held next month.
Fianna Fáil and other parties have said they are prepared for an election whenever it happens.
Earlier on Wednesday Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath claimed “some Fine Gael ministers” were keen on an election so they could get out of their portfolios “because they are failing”.
When asked to which Ministers he was referring, Mr McGrath said “health and housing” when discussing a possible date for the next general election on RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.
Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy said he believed the public would be quite happy if a general election was held next month. The Cork North Central TD who will not be seeking re-election said that there is a window of opportunity to take advantage of a pause in Brexit negotiations as the UK faces a general election in December and the EU is “changing its political make up.”