Ireland’s Varadkar Places Brexit at Center of Election Campaign

Ireland’s Varadkar Places Brexit at Center of Election Campaign

Ireland’s Varadkar Places Brexit at Center of Election Campaign

The next general election is now fixed for February 8.

However, Mr Varadkar said it's "only half time" in the Brexit process - with negotiations on the future relationship between the European Union and United Kingdom to begin in February.

The poll will be Mr Varadkar's first General Election as Taoiseach, and the first Irish General Election to be held on a Saturday.

"It's only half-time" in the Brexit process, Varadkar told reporters in Dublin, as he confirmed the date of the ballot.

While we await a formal announcement, the election has fully kicked off.

The campaign is set to pit the 40-year-old prime minister's record on the fast-growing economy against struggling services, particularly in the health service and expensive housing market, in a contest polls suggest is too close to call.

Ireland usually elects coalition or minority governments, with weeks of government formation negotiations routine.

Varadkar's Fine Gael now controls 47 seats, well below the 80 needed for a majority. Fianna Fail were a distant second on 13%.

"Brexit is not done yet", the prime minister said, adding that the next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement that "protects our jobs, our businesses, our rural communities".

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