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Ahern says May government has no mandate for hard Brexit

By Colm Kelpie

Prime Minister Theresa May has no mandate and no majority for a hard Brexit, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has told a conference in Dublin. Mr Ahern said that since the general election the situation was changing and the UK Government would have to move from its position on a hard Brexit.

"The reality is, in politics, it's numbers. She has no mandate now, nor a majority for a hard Brexit," Mr Ahern told the conference organised by software firm Pemac.

"That's the facts that are facing them. Unless she has a difficulty adding, which I don't think she will, then she'll clearly see."

Mrs May continued talks with the DUP on a deal to prop up her minority government yesterday as she faced a battle over her Brexit strategy before EU divorce talks are due to begin on Monday. The expectation is that those talks could now be delayed.

Her botched election gamble has left her so weakened that her Brexit strategy is the subject of public debate inside her party, with two former Prime Ministers calling on her to soften her EU exit approach.

Mr Ahern said the head of the Conservatives in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, did not want a hard Brexit. He said the fact that the UK is likely to pull out of the Customs Union only emerged in her Lancaster House speech in January.

"There is a real opportunity now in getting a change in the Customs Union," Mr Ahern said.

And he argued the fact that the DUP is to be propping up the Tories could be a positive.

"Having the DUP inside gives a whole new ally to making sure there is no Customs Union," Mr Ahern said. "I think the whole pendulum has swung."

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the IDA, Ireland's inward investment agency, suggested to the conference that some of the Brexit-related wins for Ireland may not be announced.

"One shouldn't confuse announcements with investments. Announcements come at the end, if the company wants to do it. There are lots of reasons why companies may not wish to announce."

He said unprecedented interest had been shown in Ireland by global companies. "I can tell you categorically there will be investment on the foot of Brexit into this country," he added.

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