Brexit no deal: Bri­tish In­dian MP’s call to use threat of food short­ages against Ire­land draws flak

The Hindu Business Line - - NEWS - VIDYA RAM

Bri­tain’s In­dian-ori­gin for­mer Cab­i­net Minister Priti Pa­tel has faced con­dem­na­tion in the UK, Ire­land and be­yond for suggest­ing that Bri­tain should use the food short­ages that Ire­land would suf­fer in the event of a no-deal as lever­age to im­prove the terms of Bri­tain’s with­drawal from the EU, and per­suade it to drop its in­sis­tence on a back­stop be­ing in place to pre­vent a hard border in North­ern Ire­land.

The Times re­ported that in re­sponse to leaked gov­ern­ment pa­pers suggest­ing Ire­land (the EU na­tion) would face food short­ages —and a 7 per cent drop in GDP (against a 5 per cent drop for Great Bri­tain) – Pa­tel ques­tioned why this point hadn’t been “pressed home dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions. There is still time to go back to Brus­sels and get a bet­ter deal.”

Pa­tel re­signed last year as Priti Pa­tel

Bri­tain’s In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary over a “fam­ily hol­i­day” to Is­rael dur­ing which she met se­nior Is­raeli politi­cians but has been a vo­cal critic of the di­rec­tion of Bri­tain’s Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, of­ten ac­cus­ing the gov­ern­ment of not pur­su­ing a tough enough line in its ne­go­ti­a­tions. She has also been part of the Euro­pean Re­search Group, an in­flu­en­tial group of Con­ser­va­tive MPs push­ing for a “hard” Brexit.

Her com­ments were swiftly con­demned by politi­cians in the UK and Ire­land, par­tic­u­larly given the mas­sive loss of life through famine that Ire­land had ex­pe­ri­enced in past cen­turies. This in­cludes a pe­riod be­tween 1845 to 1949 when over a mil­lion peo­ple are es­ti­mated to have died as a re­sult of mass star­va­tion.

“This is an in­sult to all the peo­ple of Ire­land. It dis­plays ig­no­rance to his­tory and a po­lit­i­cal in­sen­si­tiv­ity that is un­wor­thy of an MP. She should re­tract and apol­o­gise,” said Labour’s Tom Wat­son.

Pa­tel’s re­marks come ahead of the De­cem­ber 11 vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Hard Brex­i­teers are threat­en­ing to vote against it be­cause of back­stop or in­sur­ance ar­range­ments in it that are de­signed to pre­vent a hard border de­vel­op­ing in Ire­land if the two sides fail to reach an agree­ment on fu­ture re­la­tions. May has in­sisted that the deal on the ta­ble is the only one avail­able, putting Bri­tain at risk of crash­ing out of the EU or no Brexit at all.

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