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Irish government criticised for ‘self-congratulations’ on Brexit deal

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Fianna Fáil Brexit spokersperson Lisa Chambers. Pic: PA

Opposition party Fianna Fáil has criticised the Irish government for “patting themselves on the back” about the Brexit deal, suggesting that its “self-congratulations” contributed to the turmoil in Westminster.

Lisa Chambers, Fianna Fáil’s Brexit spokesperson, called “extremely unhelpful” Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar’s statement that the backstop in the new deal was “even stronger” that what had been agreed in December 2017.

“I think our own government need to be far more aware that their actions, their self-congratulations, their patting themselves on the back here in Dublin absolutely negatively feed into what’s happening in the Commons today.”

Though Fianna Fáil considers itself to be the main opposition party, it props up the governing Fine Gael party in parliament by way of a supply and confidence agreement.

READ MORE: Irish foreign minister says Brexit deal is ‘only deal on the table’

Fianna Fáil has been largely supportive of the Irish government’s Brexit strategy until recently.

On Wednesday, Varadkar and his ministers gave Theresa May “time and space” to get cabinet approval for the Brexit withdrawal treaty agreed by negotiators earlier in the week.

But speaking at a press conference following May’s announcement that she had secured the necessary support, Varadkar said it was a “pretty good” day for politics, and that Ireland had “reached a satisfactory outcome” on all of its key priorities.

This is even stronger than what we had back in December,” he said.

“While they maintained 24 hours silence up until the 9pm news last night,” Chambers said, “they simply couldn’t help themselves and found that they were quick off the mark to try and congratulate themselves on their own perceived victory.”

Fine Gael senator Neale Richmond, the chair of the Irish parliament’s Brexit committee, called Chamber’s statement “grossly disingenuous,” and said she had a “partisan desire” to lay all of the Brexit problems at the door of the Irish government.

Varadkar, Richmond said, “merely laid out the detail and process at hand last night.”

“What has been agreed is a legally binding draft treaty which is by its nature stronger than a political statement. Ample space is being given.”

READ MORE: Resignations leave Theresa May’s government in tatters

By lunchtime, four of May’s ministers, including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, had resigned over the deal, as had two parliamentary private secretaries and a Downing St official.