Irish government faces crisis at crunch time for Brexit


LONDON (AP) — Ireland's government was at risk of collapse Friday, three weeks before a crucial European Union summit on Brexit at which the country will play a key role.

The opposition Fianna Fail party has announced that it will table a no-confidence motion next week in Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's deputy, Frances Fitzgerald, over her involvement in a long-running police scandal.

Opposition leaders accuse a previous government, in which Fitzgerald was justice minister, of failing to defend a whistleblower exposing corruption in Ireland's police force.

Varadkar's Fine Gael party is standing by Fitzgerald, but his minority government relies on support from Fianna Fail to govern. If it loses a confidence vote, Ireland faces a snap election.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Fianna Fail was "behaving recklessly" at a crucial time for the country.

"Ireland does not need an election right now," Coveney said at an EU meeting in Brussels.

He said "there are some really, really serious issues for the government to manage in the national interest."

EU leaders will decide at a Dec. 14-15 summit whether there has been enough progress in Brexit talks to start discussions over Britain's future relations with the bloc.

Ireland says the EU will block those talks if Britain does not spell out how it can keep the Ireland-Northern Ireland border free of customs posts and other barriers after Brexit.

The 310 mile (500 kilometer) frontier will be the U.K.'s only land border with an EU country. Any hurdles to the movement of people or goods could have serious implications for the economies on both sides, and for Northern Ireland's peace process.