Distracted UK Government not focused on Brexit as talks enter critical stage

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 16:00

Less than 50 per cent chance of Britain progressing to discuss its future relationship with the EU

Maynooth University Professor John O’Brennan today warned that recent developments including the ‘Paradise Papers’ leak and allegations of sexual harassment within Westminster have diverted the attention of the UK Government from Brexit as negotiations with Europe reach a crucial point. The lack of focus could lead to the European Council voting to suspend talks next month, which would have a detrimental impact on all stakeholders concerned, including Ireland.

“At its Summit meeting on 14-15 December, the European Council will decide whether the UK has made sufficient progress over the past number of months to continue Brexit talks. If the Council decides the UK hasn’t done enough, there’s a real possibility that Europe will suspend negotiations,” said Professor John O’Brennan of Maynooth University’s Centre for European and Eurasian Studies. He put the chances of Britain progressing to discuss its future relationship with the EU at less than 50 per cent.

“Given the huge levels of uncertainty already existing concerning what type of Brexit we are facing, a suspension in talks now at this critical juncture will lead to further doubt and instability, which will in turn have implications for Ireland and Irish businesses.”

“In the last week accusations of sexual harassment that have already led to the resignation of one Government Minister and the continued fallout from the leaking of the Paradise Papers have placed the UK Government under severe pressure. Brexit has slipped down the agenda for the Government at possibly the most important time since departure negotiations begun.”

Professor O’Brennan was speaking at the open dialogue seminar, “The Brexit Endgame: Crash or Compromise?”, which focused on how Brexit negotiations between Britain and the EU have unfolded over the past 12 months, from both British and Irish perspectives. 
The seminar featured contributions from Brexit commentators Dr Denis MacShane, who served as Minister for Europe in Tony Blair’s Government from 2002 to 2005 and RTE’s Tony Connolly who has served as RTE’s Europe Correspondent and Europe Editor since 2001.