Irish PM Leo Varadkar set the stage for a general election within weeks, gambling that a strong economy and his success towards shaping a Brexit deal will strengthen his hold on power. Seeking to seize the political moment, Varadkar said he had decided on a date and would reveal it publicly after briefing colleagues. A vote is likely on February 7, the Sunday Times reported.
The son of an Indian immigrant father and an Irish nurse, Varadkar succeeded Enda Kenny as premier in 2017. On his watch, unemployment has continued to fall and the economy is among the European Union‘s strongest. A breakthrough with UK leader Boris Johnson helped clinch a deal that will keep the Irish border invisible after Britain leaves the bloc — and raised his profile.
For Varadkar, 40, it might be about cashing in his chips while he is on a high. “We have a deal on Brexit — in many ways, that was the big job for this government,” he said in an interview with broadcaster RTE in Dublin.
The UK is set to leave the bloc at the end of the month and begin talks on trade right after. Johnson wants that part concluded by the end of the year. The EU’s executive arm, the commission, is skeptical that can be achieved in 11 months. This delicate phase of talks will affect Ireland, which has strong commercial links with the UK across the sea.
The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland dogged the divorce talks between the UK and the EU for two years before Johnson agreed to keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs union and large parts of its single market.
Momentum has recently built behind Varadkar, who was expected to meet with Johnson in Belfast on Monday.
Northern Ireland’s power-sharing assembly reconvened, ending a three-year deadlock after a deal brokered by his government working in lockstep with UK. administration.
Johnson and Varadkar will meet the region’s leaders, spearheaded by Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister.
With Brexit and Northern Ireland dealt with, Irish opposition parties have increased pressure on Varadkar’s minority administration, questioning its record on health and homelessness.