Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, has received a timely boost after the opposition party that keeps his minority government in power pledged not to force an election because of the turmoil over Brexit. The move by Fianna Fáil will bolster Mr Varadkar in talks over a “backstop” on the Irish border, one of the most contentious elements of the EU withdrawal agreement that UK prime minister Theresa May is fighting to get through the British parliament. It underscores the depth of anxiety in Dublin about the threat of damage to the country’s economy and Northern Ireland’s peace settlement from a disorderly no-deal Brexit. Mrs May was forced to cancel emergency talks with Mr Varadkar planned for Wednesday as she battled a confidence motion from her own Conservative party.
With the fate of the British prime minister in the balance, Fianna Fáil made it clear that it would not seek to bring down Mr Varadkar’s administration for at least a year. “The chaos in Westminster will not be allowed to spread to Ireland,” Mícheál Martin, Fianna Fáil leader, said.
The confidence-and-supply deal between the Irish premier’s Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil was due to lapse after a final budget vote this month. Wednesday’s move means an election is now likely in early 2020.
Fine Gael welcomed the opposition’s extension of their pact. “This commitment further strengthens Ireland’s hand in negotiating a successful outcome to Brexit, and securing all that we have achieved to date,” the party said in a statement.