DUBLIN — Bertie Ahern, the former Irish prime minister renowned as a backroom negotiator, says clinching a Brexit deal should be only a matter of time and trade-offs.
Ahern, who in the 1990s worked closely with then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair to achieve the Good Friday peace accord for Northern Ireland, told POLITICO in an interview that key principles from those marathon Belfast talks should apply now.
He sees a possible Brexit deal if the EU gives Britain what it wants on fishing rights, and, in exchange, Britain gives the EU commitments on aligning with EU standards so as not to undercut the bloc.
“In any negotiations, when you come down to a handful of issues, it is unrealistic to think that one side is going to give in on all three or four of the key items that are left,” said Ahern, a plain-spoken Dubliner who was Ireland’s leader from 1997 to 2008.
He oversaw negotiations of a national wage pact between Ireland’s key employers and unions, then spent most of a year in Belfast working alongside Blair to coax unionists and nationalists towards compromise that often involved splitting the difference on seemingly intractable issues.
Ahern now sees London and Brussels reaching a similar finish line in negotiations “as long as Boris doesn’t have any more dinners and makes a mess of it again.” He said Johnson’s “bluster” plays badly in Brussels, but the British are right to seek a bigger slice of the fish pie.
“They’re being asked to stick to a system that dates to 1973. Denmark, Ho