‘Let May fail’: Varadkar’s Brexit letters from the public

Taoiseach receives mix of praise, promises of votes and abuse over Government’s stance

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was urged by one correspondent to “take a leaf out of Thatcher’s book” in relation to Brexit negotiations. Photograph: Tom Honan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was urged by one correspondent to “take a leaf out of Thatcher’s book” in relation to Brexit negotiations. Photograph: Tom Honan


Suggested solutions to end the political deadlock and defiant messages to “stay strong” against English objections are among the letters received by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar from the public on Brexit.

Correspondence released by the Department of the Taoiseach under the Freedom of Information Act shows the depth of the divisions caused by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Mr Varadkar receives a mix of praise, promises of votes, criticism and, from several, personal abuse over the Government’s stance during the Brexit negotiations.

One letter-writer urged the Taoiseach to stop speaking directly with the UK, warning that talks were “only a device to divide and conquer and separate Ireland out from the EU group”.?

“Your words will be twisted by Number 10 and Ireland made to look like the problem. Please talk with and thru [the] EU. UK has 800 years’ practice,” the individual wrote on November 5th.


Another writer cautions Mr Varadkar not to cede to Theresa May’s demands to drop the contentious backstop within the EU-UK divorce deal to avoid a hard Irish border.

“For God’s sake, don’t be pressured in the coming weeks just because May is drowning. Let her fail for England’s sake as well,” the individual wrote.

Another writer urges Mr Varadkar to “take a leaf out of Thatcher’s book”.


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“Remind the world that Ireland is ‘not for turning’. To every UK proposal to water down the backstop, simply reply ‘Out’ ‘Out’ a la Thatcher. The UK government may appreciate the irony,” the person wrote.

The troubled history of Anglo-Irish relations is a running theme in the correspondence. An Irish citizen in England tells Mr Varadkar on November 14th to be “resilient and courageous” with the English.

“Don’t balk, stand firm, suffer the slings and arrows; let Sarsfield be your name and your guardian. Let no man pass your vigilant gaze. Remember the Treaty of Limerick, ” they wrote.

Another individual emailed Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Mr Varadkar to wish them well in their “complex negotiations” with the “shambolic UK” regarding “their self-inflicted Brexit mess”.

The writer offered them a paraphrasing of James Joyce’s “sage” advice: “‘Beware the horns of a bull, the hooves of a horse and the smile of an Englishwoman,’ particularly one with the looney Tories and the daft DUP chomping at her rear end and with malice.”

Free-trade deal

Among more than 60 letters released over two months is a solution to “this conundrum” suggested by two correspondents: a “free trade agreement” between Ireland and the UK as an alternative “backstop” until a final EU-UK deal is reached, removing the Border problem but putting checks between Ireland and the EU.

“It is time to put these islands first for mutual benefit and respect the aspirations of all of their people,” one wrote.

Several Northern Irish writers urge the Taoiseach not to back down on the Border.

“My Irishness has always been innate within me, my husband and also for my children,” wrote one in an email to Mr Varadkar on October 17th.

“We also embraced our European Union status which [in] no way impinged on our Irishness but brought us additional benefits which we are now to lose. I fear now that we may also lose the recognition of our Irishness if a hard border is allowed to happen.”

A Northern Protestant and Irish citizen wrote of the changes Brexit was bringing about: “Within my own circles there is an increasing appetite for reunification as a means of preserving European identities.”

The letters took an increasingly belligerent tone against the Taoiseach, particularly from UK and Northern Irish writers, as the negotiations in November on a EU-UK deal stalled and opposition grew to the backstop.

“I am in total shock as to how Ireland has conducted itself with regard to the Brexit negotiations. After a hard Brexit, Ireland will be blamed,” one person emailed.

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