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February 01, 2019

Irish need to remain cool headed in next Brexit phase

While the UK is moving towards the cliff-edge moment between deal and no deal, the Irish government will have to tread carefully, writes Stephen Collins. Cool heads and a rational assessment of the available options will be required at every step towards the March 29 deadline where surprise moves may or may not happen. 

Just a week ago, there were signs that the Irish could soften their stance on the backstop if the UK moves to a softer Brexit version. But after this week's drama in the House of Commons, the Irish have no incentive to look at other options, at least for the moment, so Collins. Domestically Leo Varadkar faces strong pressure from the opposition to hold tight on the backstop. This is the yardstick on which his political success will be measured. 

But what if the UK and the EU work on the political declaration, to find the right wording for a reference to future trading arrangements? This would require Varadkar to weigh up his options and the political consequences of them. Also, the government has been playing down the prospect of a no deal until now, while Fianna Fáil, which supports the minority government of Fine Gael, complained about the lack of preparation. Even if the government is now pursuing the no-Brexit preparations as a matter of urgency, the opposition would take to a full assault if no-Brexit were indeed to happen.

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February 01, 2019

Take back control, but at what price?

How will the France translate the results of grand débat into political decisions without compromising the reform course of the government? There are economic, social and democratic grievances, and it will be impossible to do justice to them all. So what will Emmanuel Macron do? So far, he rules out nothing.

His first conclusions are to change the framework for political dialogue. His aim is to restore the value of public debate. For this he is seeking a method that allows a permanent debate and restores the role of the intermediaries (mayors, trade union, parties, media, intellectuals). In terms of concrete reforms everything is still on the table, whether it be some referendum in May or a cut in numbers of MPs.

We also note Le Figaro saying that Macron is certain to link the exit from the gilets jaunes crisis with the European elections, with a general motto to take back control by the citizens. Does that sound familiar? Well, just look where we are in the UK today.

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