Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

Brexiteers put own interests before people's welfare: Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin

Colum Eastwood and (right) Micheal Martin yesterday
Colum Eastwood and (right) Micheal Martin yesterday
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

The "great tragedy of Brexit" is that politicians have put party and personal interests ahead of people's livelihoods, the leader of the Irish opposition has said.

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was speaking during a whistlestop visit to Londonderry, where he gave his support to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

The Foyle constituency is expected to be one of the tightest races in next week's General Election, with Mr Eastwood challenging Sinn Fein's Elisha McCallion.

Mr Martin, who sat down with business leaders at the Bishop's Gate Hotel in the city, admitted he had concerns about Boris Johnson's insistence that if he is returned as Prime Minister, he will take the UK out of the EU soon after the election.

He said this was creating instability that worrying the business sector.

Mr Martin added: "I know there haven't been negotiations because of the General Election, but the (Irish) government's position is that Europe has signed up to the deal.

"The difficulty for the Republic is that this is a harder Brexit than Theresa May's Brexit.

"Down the road, it will create further problems for Northern Ireland. We only have a very outlined sketch of how it would work.

"I am more concerned about Boris Johnson's stated objection of saying, 'We will be out by December'. In other words, we are in transition, even though we don't know what the outcome of the election will be.

"I can see new deadlines being created, Brexit going on and on and people saying, 'December 2020 is the new deadline and if we don't have a trade deal done by then, we are leaving', but that's not good politics.

"It creates instability and most people in Europe know a trade deal won't be done between now and December.

"The line being pushed to the British public is that it will be done, but it (won't be) and that is a worry for people who want to create jobs and who want to invest."

Mr Martin also was critical of how the Brexit negotiations have been carried out.

"To me, the great tragedy of Brexit is that politics took precedence over people's livelihoods in Britain and Ireland," he said.

"The one thing that politicians should not do is put their own interests or their party's interests ahead of people's livelihoods.

"That is the great, great wrong that has been perpetrated by the Brexit debacle."

Mr Eastwood, who hosted the meeting between Mr Martin and the business community, said he believed there was still time to prevent Brexit.

"There is still time to stop this thing because we don't know what the next British Parliament is going to look like and we don't know if there is going to be a hung parliament," Mr Eastwood explained.

"I would like to see a coalition of parties coming together to push for a second referendum to put an end to the madness because, no matter how you describe it, there is no good version of Brexit.

"We have spoken to people who have been telling us that investment decisions, in terms of business, have stopped and stalled because people don't know what is coming next.

"I think it is a wrong that can be righted if we put people into Parliament who are prepared to vote against Brexit and who are prepared to have a people's vote.

"Given all the chaos we have seen over the past couple of years, and all the chaos we know will come in the next couple, people should have an opportunity to think and vote again.

"If they do that, we can protect ourselves from the dangers of Brexit."

Mr Eastwood also said the General Election should not be used as a reason to delay the restoration of Stormont.

"We should be taking leadership responsibility right now. I don't believe that the DUP and Sinn Fein have this new-found desire to bring Stormont back," he added.

"I think that there is an opportunity in this election to send a message.

"If you want politics to work here again, you need to vote for people who are prepared to make it work."

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