Bertie Ahern: UK’s Brexit negotiation tactics are ‘deplorable’

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Bertie Ahern: Uk’s Brexit Negotiation Tactics Are ‘Deplorable’ Bertie Ahern: Uk’s Brexit Negotiation Tactics Are ‘Deplorable’
Ahern said the Tory party viewed 'fighting and bashing the EU' as being tactically in their political interests. Photo: PA Images.
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Vivienne Clarke

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has described the tactics of the United Kingdom’s Brexit negotiating team as “deplorable”.

Mr Ahern told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show that the European Union was trying to find solutions to the situation while it looked like "the representative from the UK was out to do everything to make life almost impossible".

"He might think that's very smart negotiation, but I think it's deplorable," he said. “In normal business people just don't do things like that.”

The UK had not signed any significant trade deals, Mr Ahern added. While they had “rolled over a few with a few countries”, they were experiencing major problems with staffing and filling positions and this was affecting their budgetary situation.

Somewhere along the way they might realise that Brexit was not at all a great position

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“On the day of our Budget where we're spending €4.6 billion, they have a paper out last night saying that they're going to have cuts of several billion soon, in their budget paper of next week,” he said.

“They're in a bad position from a trade point of view, it’s not in anyone's interest to see them in that position.

“Somewhere along the way they might realise that Brexit was not at all a great position and then start trying to deal with the EU in a fair way.”

'Bashing the EU'

Mr Ahern said that at the moment the Tory party viewed “fighting and bashing the EU” as being tactically in their political interests, and this was likely to continue as long as British public opinion thought this was a good way of dealing with diplomatic relationships.

“Somewhere along the way” British prime minister Boris Johnson might decide that it was “not such a great idea to be fighting with the EU,” Mr Ahern said.

“Are the British stupid enough to go into a full trade war, that's the question? I don't think Boris is that silly, to go into a full trade war, the EU has a lot of weight of ways of really hurting the UK if it gets into that business”.

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What they are endeavouring to do is have a position where Northern Ireland is in the single market, but does not have to comply with any of the rules

The "whole game" with the UK was to try to “kick the can down the road”, Mr Ahern said, adding that he believed the UK government was aiming at "getting out" of the Northern Ireland Protocol altogether.

"I don't think the British have moved away from what the Protocol was designed or the Withdrawal Agreement was designed for, and that was to avoid a hard border between the UK and the single market operating in the Republic of Ireland," he said.

"What they are endeavouring to do is have a position where Northern Ireland is in the single market, but does not have to comply with any of the rules of the single market.

"In fairness to the EU, they've made it perfectly clear, regardless of where the border was, a land border or a sea border, you couldn't have a position where you get the benefits of the single market without having to pay the checks and balances. That is the crux of the matter.”

'Red herring'

Mr Ahern said British Brexit negotiator David Frost appeared "very good at taking the hardline Brexit position and he looks as if he's determined to go on with that."

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He said that he felt the issue of the European Court of Justice was a “red herring”, it was nothing new and had been mentioned by the UK last July.

“I think that's a bit of a red herring in the whole debate — they know that if there's a breakdown in the end somebody has to arbitrate and they know the European Court of Justice is the way that everything in Europe operates. They're throwing that in knowing the EU will say no to that.”

He added that he did not think the UK would trigger Article 16. “I think the Brexit argument is going to get worse not better. That argument will probably not take place this side of Christmas.

“If there's a trade war, either a selective one or a complete one in 2022, that will not suit anybody, but Frost is pushing his luck on this.”

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