Brexit debate compared to Homer Simpson nightmare

The Westminster debate around Brexit has been like a “Homer Simpson nightmare”, former Northern Ireland statesman Mark Durkan has said.

The former SDLP leader, who is running as a Fine Gael candidate for the European elections, criticised the “nonsense” Brexit process in the British Parliament.

Mr Durkan made the comments as he launched his “back the Backstop” campaign in Dublin on Monday.

Mr Durkan, a former deputy first minister, was selected as a Fine Gael election candidate last month, and will run as a candidate alongside former tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald in the constituency of Dublin for the European elections in May.

“There’s all sorts of uncertainty about what is going to happen in the UK in terms of Brexit,” he said.

“This whole process has been to date like a Homer Simpson nightmare, every time you think it’s possibly coming to a conclusion there’s a whole new twist and off we go again, so there will probably be more of that.”

As Theresa May is preparing to visit Berlin and Paris for last-minute talks with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron ahead of the emergency summit on Wednesday, Mr Durkan said that while we can “speculate and commentate” about what will happen, a way has to be found to resolve the thorny Brexit issues.

“We have a satnav that can take us through this and it’s in the Good Friday Agreement,” he added.

Asked about Sinn Fein’s recent calls for a referendum on Irish unity, Mr Durkan said that a “proper conversation and debate” can only start when the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are restored.

“There’s no point in having a referendum in circumstances where we don’t have the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement up running and working,” he added.

“That’s a debate that you need to frame very carefully. We have seen in the context of the UK what happens when you have referendums when the ground hasn’t been prepared. We’ve seen in Scotland just how difficult things can be when issues and questions arise.”

Mr Durkan led the SDLP from 2001 to 2010, taking on the mantle from Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume.

The 58-year-old briefly served as Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister alongside the Ulster Unionist Party’s first minister David Trimble.

The Fine Gael representative has played down questions about his ability to represent Dublin, saying that he can speak for the capital while also speaking for all-Ireland issues.

“The people of Dublin I have been talking to know that I won’t be simply a representative for Northern Ireland,” he added.

He also described the deep frustration about the lack of representation of people from Northern Ireland during the Brexit process, adding that only the DUP’s vote has mattered in Westminster.

“Nobody’s mandate for the (Northern Ireland) Assembly is counting whatsoever,” he continued.

“I think the Irish Government has done a very good job in representing all of Ireland’s interests. They have been sensitive to some concerns they have heard in respect of unionists, but have absolutely been straight on in relation to maintaining the integrity of the agreement and we need that next stage insurance in the process.

“There is a huge representation deficit, none of it was caused by Leo Varadkar.”

He also hit out at Sinn Fein’s abstentionist policy, saying their argument “no longer stands” as they are a party that is committed to the Good Friday Agreement.

“I’m not going to waste my time making calls for them that they are clearly going to ignore,” he added.

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