Sinn Féin could bring down Brexit without even taking their seats

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media with Sinn Fein Foyle MP Elisha McCallion

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media with Sinn Fein Foyle MP Elisha McCallion (second from right) and Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (far right). Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Sinn Féin could help to bring down Brexit, but not in the way many have previously suggested.

Political commentator Fintan O'Toole has said that the left-wing Irish republican political party are unlikely to take their seven seats in the House of Commons, despite the fact that they remain vacant, and could tip the arithmetic in the House of Commons.

Writing for the Irish Times he argued that Sinn Féin taking the seats could be "counterproductive" in the fight to stop Brexit.

They have previously said it would be "unthinkable" to interfere with Westminster politics.

He wrote: "The Brexiteers and their media wing would generate hysteria about the Provos thwarting the will of the British people. Johnson would relish it. Wavering Tories would step back into line."

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But O'Toole said there could be another way Sinn Fein could help the fight against Brexit - and it involves temporarily stepping down to allow anti-Brexit parties to take the seats.

As parties in England, Scotland and Wales have started to consider electoral pacts, O'Toole has suggested parties in Ireland could do the same.

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His grand plan would involve Sinn Féin stepping down in seven constituencies in Foyle, West Tyrone, Fermanagh & South Tyrone, Mid Ulster, Newry and Armagh, South Down and West Belfast to make way for candidates from the SDLP, Alliance and the Greens.

O'Toole said that the chosen candidates would sign a contract to stand down as soon as a decision is made on Brexit.

He explained: "One reason for suggesting that the candidates be people who already have distinguished themselves in their own fields is to reassure Sinn Féin that they are not trying to build their own political bases.

"But if the party is still worried, there could be an extra safeguard - the candidates, if elected, will stand down at any time Sinn Féin chooses."

And he added that the candidates would also have to respect Sinn Féin's policy of abstaining on all issues except the Brexit matter.

"Their platform is simple. They will support all measures, procedural or legislative, to stop a no-deal Brexit, up to and including the revocation of article 50.

"They will support in all circumstances the retention of the backstop. They will support any proposal for a new referendum.

"They will support a motion of no-confidence in Johnson if he seeks to push through a no-deal Brexit. And they will support, if the opportunity arises, the formation of an alternative cross-party administration."

O'Toole said it would be a "bold move" and a price worth paying to have an "electrifying effect" on Irish and British history.

Lord Adonis tweeted: "This is a hugely important and constructive proposal by to give Northern Ireland the voice it deserves at Westminster and stop Brexit!"

Another said: "What an amazingly creative solution to our current crisis - highly unlikely to be put into practice but if it were, total game changer."

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