Irish government faces crisis at crunch time for Brexit

Jean-Claude Juncker_Simon Coveney_Theresa

The question for Britain is whether the political turmoil in Dublin is likely to make the Taoiseach soften his position on Brexit over the next two weeks.

Simon Coveney, the foreign affairs minister, said in a speech in Dublin last week that relations between Ireland and Britain were more strained than at any time since the Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998.

The Fianna Fail move comes after Fitzgerald admitted she was made aware of an attempt to discredit a police whistleblower in a 2015 email but failed to act.

The other issues are Britain's financial settlement on leaving the bloc and the rights of European Union citizens living in Britain.

Varadkar told his senior ministers he would not be sacking Fitzgerald, did not expect her to resign and did not want her to resign.

Opposition party Fianna Fail, which past year agreed to abstain in key votes to allow Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael party to form a government, called on deputy prime minister Frances Fitzgerald to resign.

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But if the parties fail to agree on Fitzgerald, the government's future would be under threat.

A breakdown of the minority Fine Gael government's cooperation deal, which has worked relatively smoothly up until now, would likely lead to an election in December or January.

The opposition party, Sinn Fein, already tabled their motion against the deputy prime minister on Thursday and it will be debated next week.

Over the past few days Mr Coveney has said that Britain's financial settlement would not ensure the smooth passage of Brexit talks to the next stage.

The EU has been steadfast in its decision to first conclude talks on the status of EU citizens in Britain, the Irish border and the exit fee before progression to trade negotiations, backing up Dublin at every turn. The 2018 budget has also not been fully legislated yet.

Since Varadkar's appointment as Fine Gael leader in May, his party has narrowly led Fianna Fail in opinion polls that suggest both parties would increase their support but still struggle to form anything but another minority government. If it does not, will the prospect of a snap election distract Dublin to the point where a compromise with Britain ahead of the summit becomes more hard?

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