Sinn Fein declares Brexit a ‘clear and imminent threat’ to Ireland

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, right, and the party’s vice president Michelle O’Neill. The president of Sinn Féin said: ‘The reality is that Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement are not compatible.’ (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Sinn Fein declares Brexit a ‘clear and imminent threat’ to Ireland

LONDON: Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald warned Thursday that Brexit was “a clear and imminent threat” to the island of Ireland and was incompatible with Northern Ireland’s two decades-old peace accord.
“The reality is that Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement are not compatible,” the Irish republican leader said, referencing the landmark 1998 accord which devolved government to the British province and ended several decades of deadly violence.
“Brexit, whether it is hard or soft, represents a clear and imminent threat to the economic, social and the political functioning of Ireland in its totality,” she added.
McDonald, speaking to reporters during her first visit to Britain since taking over from veteran Republican leader Gerry Adams earlier this month, criticized recent comments by several British lawmakers suggesting the agreement should be revisited.
Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for more than a year after Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) pulled out of a joint executive amid political disagreements.
Months of talks, including with British Prime Minister Theresa May this week, have so far failed to bridge their differences.
McDonald said those now coming out against the Good Friday Agreement were pursuing “their own interests” of a hard Brexit at all costs.
“That’s a deeply shocking and, in our view, deeply deeply irresponsible position for anybody to take,” she said.
McDonald warned the re-introduction of any kind of border on the Irish island must be avoided.
“There cannot be a border on the island of Ireland,” she said.
“To impose such a measure would be catastrophic in terms of our commerce, in terms of our access to services... in terms of how people live their day to day lives.”
McDonald said Northern Ireland instead should receive special designation within any future relationship agreement Britain strikes with the EU — something May has repeatedly ruled out.


Macron’s ratings fall further after month of protests

Updated 16 December 2018
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Macron’s ratings fall further after month of protests

  • Many of the protesters have targeted Macron personally, calling on him to resign
  • Until last week, a clear majority of French people had backed the protests, which sprung up initially over high taxes

PARIS: A month of “yellow vest” protests have taken a further toll on the popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron, a new poll showed Sunday, with analysts saying he will be forced to change his style of governing.
Around 66,000 protesters turned out again on Saturday on the fifth round of anti-government demonstrations, which sprung up over diesel taxes last month.
The figure was about half the number of the previous weekend, suggesting momentum was waning and the most acute political crisis of Macron’s 19-month presidency was coming to an end.
“It is calming down, but what remains of it all is a strong feeling of hatred toward Macron,” said veteran sociologist Herve Le Bras from the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS).
A major poll by the Ifop group published in Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed Macron’s approval had slipped another two points in the last month, to 23 percent.
The proportion of people who declared themselves “very dissatisfied” by his leadership jumped by six points to 45 percent.
Many of the protesters have targeted Macron personally, calling on him to resign or targeting his background as an investment banker and alleged elitism.
A different poll by Ipsos on Wednesday last week showed that a mere 20 percent of respondents were happy with his presidency, a fall of six points to its lowest ever level.
Le Bras said the protests had underlined the depth of dislike for Macron’s personality and style of governing, which critics see as arrogant and too distant.
“Even by being more humble, it’s going to be complicated,” he added.

Until last week, a clear majority of French people had backed the protests, which sprung up initially over high taxes before snowballing into a wider opposition front against Macron.
In a bid to end the standoff, he announced a package of measures for low-income workers on Monday in a televised address, estimated by economists to cost up to 15 billion euros ($17 billion).
The 40-year-old also acknowledged widespread animosity toward him and came close to apologizing for a series of verbal gaffes seen as dismissive of the poor or jobless.
Two polls published last Tuesday — in the wake of Macron’s concessions — suggested the country was now broadly 50-50 on whether the protests should continue.
“It’s a movement that has succeeded in forcing back what looked like a strong government,” Jerome Sainte-Marie, a public opinion expert at the Pollingvox group, told AFP.
“People have confidence in themselves now, so things won’t return to how they were on November 15” before the protests started, he said.
“The context in which Emmanuel Macron holds power has changed,” he added.
The former investment banker had until now styled himself as a determined pro-business reformer who would not yield to pressure from protests like his predecessors.
“Macron has given an indication that he is more open to dialogue,” Jean-Daniel Levy from the Harris Interactiv polling group told AFP.
The government has announced a six-month consultation with civil society groups, mayors, businesses and the “yellow vests” to discuss tax and other economic reforms.
Hikes in petrol and diesel taxes, as well as tougher emissions controls on old vehicles — justified on the grounds of environmental protection — were what sparked the “yellow vest” movement.
Macron “won’t necessarily change the overall course of his reforms, rather the way he carries them out,” Levy added.

In Paris on Saturday, the more than 8,000 police on duty easily outnumbered the 2,200 protesters counted by local authorities.
There were 168 arrests by early evening, far fewer than the 1,000 or so of last Saturday.
Tear gas was occasionally fired, but only a fraction compared with the weekends of December 8 or December 1 when graffiti was daubed on the Arc de Triomphe in scenes that shocked France.
Richard Ferrand, the head of the National Assembly, welcomed the “necessary” weakening of “yellow vest” rallies on Saturday, adding that “there had been a massive response to their demands.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner also called on protesters to halt their blockades across the country which have seen traffic and businesses disrupted.
“Everyone’s safety has to become the rule again,” he said in a tweet.
“Dialogue now needs to unite all those who want to transform France.”
He said eight people had died since the start of the movement.
Around 69,000 security forces were mobilized across France on Saturday, down from 89,000 the weekend before when 2,000 people were detained.