Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels on Wednesday. Twitter via RollingNews.ie.
By Ray O’Hanlon
The European Union decided Wednesday to once again give the UK extra time for Brexit.
With tomorrow, April 12, the designated withdrawal date – this after an earlier “flextension” from March 29 – and the prospect of a no-deal crashing out, the EU offered October 31, Halloween, as a new departure date.
If British Prime Theresa May can perform the trick of persuading a chaotic parliament to accept her withdrawal deal in a fourth vote – she says one will occur after Easter – Brexit could happen on an earlier date than October 31.
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Either way, the EU said it will review the situation in June.
And the time extension now draws the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland included, into European Parliament elections set for May 23-26.
The elections could amount to a de facto second referendum on Brexit, most especially in Northern Ireland and Scotland where voters rejected Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
Northern Ireland voters are presented with perhaps the most glaring choice with Sinn Féin and the SDLP strongly behind remaining in the EU, and the DUP strongly in support of Brexit.
The European vote, then, will be a second chance for voters to go to their respective corners.
The depth of feeling in the North regarding Brexit was reflected yesterday evening in a now annual event hosted by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in Hunter College’s Roosevelt House on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
The gathering was a salute to the 100th anniversary of the First Dáil and Ireland’s Declaration of Independence in 1919, the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and the first anniversary of the launch in New York of the McGuinness Principles.
But while all these were acknowledged in remarks by the guest speakers, Professor Colin Harvey of Queen’s University Belfast, Irish News columnist Brian Feeney, and the special honoree for the evening, Belfast-based attorney Niall Murphy, it was Brexit that was the dominant subject in the room.
Indeed, as the evening was winding down, news was coming through from the EU meeting in Brussels that the Brexit date had been extended to Halloween.
This prompted some inevitable jokes, but all who had listened to the speakers were made plainly aware that Brexit was no joke to the people of Northern Ireland.
Niall Murphy, in a forceful speech, focused on Brexit while telling the room that the European rights of those living in the North were about to “evaporate” with Brexit.
Said Murphy in part: “On 23rd June 2016 the people of the North voted to remain in the EU. They did so because it is in our best interests politically and economically. The reckless and irresponsible rhetoric which has conditioned the British government’s approach to effecting the party political intention of the British Conservative Party, has thrust the entire viability of the United Kingdom into terminal constitutional decline, heralding the inevitability of a second independence referendum in Scotland and also paralyzing our own society with a constitutional convulsion which, in the early part of 2016, was not on the immediate envision of anyone, Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter. The vast majority of the people in Ireland do not want Brexit.”
The people of Ireland, North and South, will now get a chance to underline this in next month’s European Parliament vote.