Ahern: Brexit transition kicked down the road until after UK general election

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The Brexit transition period will be stretched out until after the next British general election, a former Irish Taoiseach said.

Bertie Ahern predicted resolving the UK’s relationship with the EU would be put off until after the country goes to the polls in 2022.

He said Prime Minister Theresa May would not seal a withdrawal deal by October, when a crucial European Council meeting of EU leaders in Brussels is scheduled.

Mr Ahern said: “It will be kicked down the road a little bit, it will probably be kicked down the road to March (Brexit Day).

“The transition period will be lengthened, it will be kicked out to the other side of the British election and I don’t know what will happen then.

“I don’t have much faith in Jeremy (Corbyn) either.”

Mr Ahern is one of the architects of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which largely ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland. He was Irish premier from 1997 to 2008.

He has previously warned about the impact of Brexit on the peace process and the effect of any hard border on the island of Ireland.

The former Fianna Fail leader reflected on the chances of a Brexit deal being implemented in the short-term.

“It is not going to happen. We can dream on but I can think of better dreams.”

Earlier this year the UK and EU said they had agreed on a large part of the deal that will lead to the orderly withdrawal of the UK.

Issues remaining to be resolved included the Northern Irish border with the Republic.

Officially, the transitional period is expected to last from Brexit day on March 29 2019 to December 31 2020.

The UK and EU have expressed differing visions of what exactly the transition period entails but the Irish Government has said a “backstop” means Northern Ireland will continue to follow certain EU rules.

Mr Ahern also urged Stormont’s quarrelling politicians to get back to work to address Brexit challenges.

“Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think any politicians here stood on the grounds of not doing anything for the next few years.”

He said Brexit was the worst decision the UK had ever made.

“The hope is that Theresa May will get her way and leave the EU but actually stay in it.”

Former Ulster Unionist leader turned Conservative peer Lord David Trimble addressed the same event at Queen’s University Belfast.

He is a proponent of Northern Ireland Brexit, as part of the UK, and reiterated his view that the divorce did not pose any threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

Lord Trimble also blamed the EU for engaging in last-minute brinkmanship over the future of the Irish border.

He said: “It is not a problem. If we could just get the parties concerned to sit around the table for half an hour we would solve it.”

He accused Brussels of playing games.

“It (Brexit) will happen and it is not going to be a problem as far as Northern Ireland is concerned.”

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