Fianna Fáil is preparing to keep Leo Varadkar in power until early 2020. The likelihood of a general election this year has evaporated on foot of the new Brexit deadline of October 31.
Many Fianna Fáil TDs held expectations the party would pull the plug on Fine Gael after the Dáil’s summer break, but senior sources say Micheál Martin will resist any pressure to collapse the Government before the new Brexit date.
On the Fine Gael side, ministerial sources say they expect to “get back to normal work” now that Brexit is temporarily being pushed into the background.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out the prospect of a reshuffle, meaning embattled Housing and Health Ministers Eoghan Murphy and Simon Harris will stay in position for another year.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will provide the Cabinet with an economic update on Tuesday. He is already working towards the publication of a summer economic statement which will set the broad boundaries for budget negotiations with Fianna Fáil.
The prospect of negotiating another budget is not one that either party is relishing.
“One will have to be agreed now because of all the dates on which Varadkar could go to the park, the first two weeks of October just can’t happen,” said one Fianna Fáil source.
Big battles over how to increase carbon tax and the reform of property tax are already on the horizon.
The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the two parties was renewed last December, but there was a widespread expectation in Leinster House that it would be ended once Brexit was resolved.
Dáil numbers are likely to be complicated further as a result of TDs from both parties seeking election to the European Parliament. Fine Gael is likely to lose Frances Fitzgerald to Brussels, while Fianna Fáil could be down Billy Kelleher.
Under law, by-elections for their seats will have to be held by November 24.
But a senior Fianna Fáil figure told the Irish Independent: “The uncertainty over Brexit will remain until October and beyond even if there is a general election in the UK.
“If Leo wants an election he can go to the Áras any day as we all know, but he would find it hard to defend going over the next few months.”
A Fine Gael minister noted Mr Varadkar has always publicly maintained that he doesn’t want an election until summer 2020.
“Spring next year seems more likely, but we’re definitely going nowhere this year unless Theresa May passes the deal in the next few weeks,” they said.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar issued a blunt warning to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and right-wing Conservative MPs.
He said the European Commission is not “some kind of honest broker”, but rather a body devoted to protecting the best interests of the European Union and its member states.
The DUP has been accused by some elements of the UK media of undermining Prime Minister Theresa May, who depends on the Northern Ireland party to support her minority government.
DUP members have fought for over a year for compromises on the backstop guarantee over no Border infrastructure between the Republic and the North.
The Taoiseach, speaking at the Irish Distillers complex in Midleton, Co Cork, urged both the DUP and Brexit-supporting Tory MPs to appreciate the actual role of the EC.
“I think our role as Ireland and the EU is to understand the fact the UK has got itself into a very difficult position,” he said. “They don’t want to leave without a deal, but they also don’t want to vote for the deal. It seems now that half or even more than half of the public don’t want to leave at all. So they have got themselves in a difficult situation.
“For a lot of us it was predictable, but they are there now.”