Tory MP threat­ens Ire­land with Brexit food short­ages

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Fi­achra Ó Cion­naith

A Con­ser­va­tive MP has been told to read a his­tory book af­ter suggest­ing that Ire­land should be threat­ened with food short­ages if the Brexit back­stop re­mains.

Tá­naiste Si­mon Coveney said Priti Pa­tel’s com­ments are “ridicu­lous”, while Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDon­ald told Bri­tish politi­cians to read a his­tory book and learn about the Famine.

In a Bri­tish gov­ern­ment re­port leaked to the Times yesterday, Ms Pa­tel claimed that Ire­land could face worse food short­ages than Bri­tain if there is a no-deal Brexit, and that short­ages should be used to en­cour­age the EU and Ire­land to scrap the North’s back­stop deal.

“This pa­per ap­pears to show the gov­ern­ment were well aware Ire­land will face sig­nif­i­cant is­sues in a nodeal sce­nario,” she said. “Why hasn’t this point been pressed home dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions? There is still time to go back to Brus­sels and get a bet­ter deal.”

While Ms Pa­tel did not di­rectly raise the spec­tre of the Famine, her com­ments have been widely seen to mirror the 1845-1849 pe­riod which saw al­most 1m peo­ple die and many more emi­grate.

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar sidestepped the is­sue yesterday, say­ing he does not ex­pect “food short­ages” be­cause “ob­vi­ously we have our own food in Ire­land”, but Ms Pa­tel was heav­ily crit­i­cised by other politi­cians.

In a state­ment to the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner, a spokesper­son for Mr Cove neysa id Ms Pa­tel’s com­ments are the lat­est ex­am­ple of the “ridicu­lous carry-on from an MP from a neigh­bour­ing state and ally”.

Ms McDon­ald said Ms Pa­tel must apol­o­gise for the hurt­ful re­marks and that she and other Bri­tish politi­cians need to read a his­tory book if they be­lieve noth­ing wrong was said.

“I think that state­ment was, for ob­vi­ous his­tor­i­cal rea­sons, very dis­taste­ful,” she said. “It also be­lies a re­ally reck­less and al­most ju­ve­nile men­tal­ity.”

EU agri­cul­ture com­mis­sioner Phil Ho­gan said such a tac­tic would lead to “the star­va­tion of the Bri­tish peo­ple”.

He said the re­marks showed “how much out of touch” Ms Pa­tel was be­cause the UK must im­port 60% of its food.

Sim­i­lar re­marks were made by the North’s Al­liance party MLA Naomi Long, while Scot­land first minister Ni­cola Stur­geon said Ms Pa­tel’s com­ments show “the sheer moral bank­ruptcy of the Tory Brex­i­teers on full dis­play”.

The Bri­tish par­lia­ment is set to vote on the Brexit deal on Tues­day.

Priti Pa­tel: Com­ments de­scribed as ‘ridicu­lous’.

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