BREX­I­TEER MP IS NEI­THER IM­PE­RI­AL­IST NOR HIS­TO­RIAN

Irish Independent - - The Week -

THERE’S a weak sug­ges­tion that Brexit is all about a de­sire for the re­turn of the days of the em­pire. It’s a sim­plis­tic view and fails to take ac­count of the many and vary­ing rea­sons why Bri­tish peo­ple voted to leave the Euro­pean Union. In this news­pa­per, Mary Kenny dis­missed the ar­gu­ment of “the fa­tal Bri­tish nos­tal­gia for em­pire”, whose logic she summed up as: “The Brits can’t cope, psy­cho­log­i­cally, with the fact that they’ve lost an em­pire. Ob­sess­ing about Nazis and World War II is an­other ex­er­cise in nos­tal­gia – my God, haven’t we heard enough about Dunkirk?”

Kenny ar­gued “the com­plex­i­ties that have trig­gered Brexit” were far more sub­tle and so­phis­ti­cated “than churn­ing out a weary old trope of sim­plis­tic Brit-bash­ing”.

Un­for­tu­nately, those who wish to take a more nu­anced view of Brexit in an ef­fort to un­der­stand the mo­ti­va­tions be­hind it are all too of­ten con­founded by the ut­ter­ances of lead­ing cam­paign­ers on the Brexit side.

Priti Pa­tel MP, the daugh­ter of Ugan­dan Asian im­mi­grants to Bri­tain, can hardly be viewed in the same light as the toffs, spivs and pub­lic school­boys who han­ker af­ter the days when the sun never set on the em­pire.

The for­mer in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment sec­re­tary is re­garded as a gifted politi­cian.

But even she is not averse to a foot-in-mouth mo­ment so char­ac­ter­is­tic of Brex­i­teers.

Ms Pa­tel is suggest­ing the threat of food short­ages be used to force Ire­land to drop the back­stop.

She was re­act­ing to a leaked Bri­tish gov­ern­ment re­port say­ing that Ire­land will suf­fer a GDP drop of 7pc and risks food short­ages.

The re­port noted that Ire­land was a far more open econ­omy than the UK and out­lines our vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties post-Brexit. The Tory MP feels the warn­ings could be used as lever­age.

“This pa­per ap­pears to show the gov­ern­ment were well aware Ire­land will face sig­nif­i­cant is­sues in a no-deal sce­nario. Why hasn’t this point been pressed home dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions? There is still time to go back to Brus­sels and get a bet­ter deal,” she says.

EU Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Phil Ho­gan con­demned the com­ments point­ing out Bri­tain im­ported 60pc of its food needs, and 43pc of these came from Ire­land, with prod­ucts of high qual­ity 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 said.

Ms Pa­tel’s sug­ges­tion is ridicu­lous and shouldn’t be af­forded the req­ui­site cred­i­bil­ity.

She is also clearly not a stu­dent of Ir­ish his­tory as she ap­pears un­aware of our past ex­pe­ri­ence of food short­ages un­der colo­nial power, most no­tably the Great Ir­ish Famine of the 1840s.

Nor does she re­flect upon the 1940s when Bri­tain held out against ef­forts to starve its peo­ple into sub­mis­sion in World War II through a sea block­ade on its merchant navy im­port­ing food.

Food se­cu­rity is not a bar­gain­ing chip.

Those who wish to take a more nu­anced view of Brexit are con­founded by such ut­ter­ances

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