We have a deal on Brexit: Ireland to hold snap election in February

Varadkar "I have to acknowledge that circumstances have changed. We have a deal on Brexit and in many ways that was the big job of this government."

Varadkar “I have to acknowledge that circumstances have changed. We have a deal on Brexit and in many ways that was the big job of this government.”

Varadkar says now is the best time for a vote as February 8th polling date set.

Ireland will hold a snap general election next month, the country’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told his cabinet Tuesday morning.

Irish media reported that the vote will be held on Saturday, February 8. Varadkar is expected to ask the Irish president to dissolve parliament later on Tuesday.

Varadkar last week suggested that a snap election may be called soon, saying on an Irish radio broadcast: “I have to acknowledge that circumstances have changed. We have a deal on Brexit and in many ways that was the big job of this government.”

His minority government is currently backed by the main opposition party under a pact that runs out this year. The deal was extended in 2018 given the uncertainty over Brexit at the time, but following Boris Johnson’s election victory in December, the U.K. is now firmly on course to leave the EU with a deal at the end of the month.

Kicking off what’s set to be a short campaign, Varadkar tweeted on Tuesday afternoon: “We’ve made some good progress since I’ve become Taoiseach. But I know it’s not enough, and we want to do much more.”

Outlining his rationale for calling the election now the Taoiseach said a Brexit deal had been achieved which would see the UK exit the EU in an “orderly” fashion.

“There will be no hard border, citizens’ rights have been protected and the Common Travel Area will remain in place,” he said.

He said an agreement to restore powersharing  in Northern Ireland had also been reached.

He said the next priority was to secure a free-trade agreement between the EU, including Ireland, and the United Kingdom, that protected the Irish economy.

The capacity for the government to do everything else that needs to be done: in “health, housing, climate action, tax reform,” was dependent on this agreement he said.

Mr Varadkar said there was a window to hold an election now with the aim of having a new government in place before the next European Council meeting in March.

Saturday Polling Day

A Saturday polling day is unusual, with elections in recent decades taking place on a Thursday or Friday.

Fine Gael figures have said Saturday polling means schools will not be closed so parents will not have to find alternative childcare arrangements.

Mr Varadkar spoke to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and other Opposition leaders after the Cabinet meeting this morning and informed them of his decision.

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