Fury at Tory’s call to threaten Ire­land with food short­age

Irish Independent - - News Brexit - Laura Larkin and John Down­ing

A SUG­GES­TION that the threat of food short­ages be used to force Ire­land to drop the back­stop has sparked a fu­ri­ous re­ac­tion on both sides of the Ir­ish Sea as the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment faces into the fi­nal days of its hard sell on Theresa May’s deal.

A leaked UK re­port which sug­gested that Ire­land will suf­fer a GDP drop of 7pc and risks food short­ages un­der a no-deal sce­nario has been dis­missed here.

The re­port noted that Ire­land was a far more open econ­omy than the UK and out­lines our vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties post-Brexit.

Var­i­ous as­sess­ments of the im­pact on the Ir­ish econ­omy have been laid out by ex­perts since the Brexit ref­er­en­dum.

Fi­nance Minister Paschal Dono­hoe has es­ti­mated that a cliff-edge Brexit would cost at least 40,000 jobs and could see GDP fall by around 4pc.

Brex­i­teer Priti Pa­tel sug­gested the re­port should have been used to press Ire­land to drop the back­stop and said there was still time for a rene­go­ti­a­tion.

But EU Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Phil Ho­gan ut­terly con­demned the com­ments. He said the UK im­ported 60pc of its food needs, and 43pc of these came from Ire­land, with prod­ucts of high qual­ity very pop­u­lar with Bri­tish shop­pers.

“So, if she wants to ad­vo­cate a pol­icy that brings about the star­va­tion of the Bri­tish peo­ple, this is a good way of go­ing about it,” Mr Ho­gan told the As­so­ci­a­tion of Euro­pean Jour­nal­ists.

“I think con­sumers would be hor­ri­fied that a se­nior politi­cian, and for­mer minister, would take such a view of be­ing hos­tile to the food se­cu­rity re­quire­ments of the coun­try they are re­sid­ing in,” he added.

Mr Ho­gan in­sisted that if Mrs May loses next week’s vi­tal House of Com­mons vote on the draft Brexit deal, the EU will “not budge” on the Ir­ish back­stop. He said there had never been such unity among the other 27 EU mem­ber states as there had been on the is­sue of Brexit.

A spokesper­son for the Tá­naiste de­scribed Ms Pa­tel’s com­ments as “ridicu­lous carry-on from an MP from a neigh­bour­ing state and ally”.

“Brexit and the problems it cre­ates are UK pol­icy and we have been ma­ture in ne­go­ti­at­ing a deal that min­imises the dam­age and re­spects the UK’s choices while at the same time pro­tects our peace,” he said.

A spokesper­son for Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar pointed out there will be con­se­quences in Ire­land, Europe and the UK post-Brexit but said “the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment is one of the best pre­pared and has been plan­ning right across the Gov­ern­ment and the State since the orig­i­nal vote, in or­der to min­imise the im­pact of Brexit”.

Scot­tish First Minister Ni­cola Stur­geon also hit out at sug­ges­tions the re­port could be used as a ne­go­ti­at­ing tool, say­ing the “sheer moral bank­ruptcy of the Tory Brex­i­teers is on full dis­play”.

The par­lia­men­tary arith­metic is stacked against the Tory leader who dis­patched 30 min­is­ters na­tion­wide to win sup­port for the with­drawal deal ahead of next week’s vote which she de­clined to post­pone.

In an ef­fort to boost sup­port, a new amend­ment has been tabled which would give par­lia­ment the abil­ity to ap­prove a de­ci­sion to trig­ger the back­stop ar­range­ment or ex­tend the tran­si­tion pe­riod be­yond De­cem­ber 2020.

Vote: A Brexit sup­porter and an anti-Brexit demon­stra­tor at the Houses of Par­lia­ment, Lon­don, this week.

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