Hogan critical of Tory MP’s food threat
EU commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan has criticised a Tory MP’s threat to use potential post-Brexit food shortages in Ireland as leverage to secure a better deal.
Mr Hogan said he believed British consumers would be “horrified” with the suggestion by Priti Patel, a former international development secretary, that food supplies to and from Ireland through the UK “landbridge” should be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations to press the Irish Government to drop the contentious backstop option in the divorce deal aimed at preventing a hard Irish border.
Speaking at an Association of European Journalists event in Dublin, Mr Hogan said the remarks show that Patel is “out of touch” because 43 per cent of the food consumed by the UK comes from the Republic of Ireland.
“So if she wants to advocate a policy that brings about starvation of the British people this is a good way of going about it,” he said, referring to Ms Patel’s comments as reported in the Times newspaper yesterday.
“Consumers will be horrified at the notion that a senior politician, a former minister would take such a view of being hostile to the food security requirements of the country in which they are residing.”
Ms Patel said last night her comments had “been taken out of context by some”.
Mr Hogan said the Irish authorities and Government departments “have to be planning ahead more intensively” to prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit and to consider risks to the “very important landbridge” given how a hard Brexit might make the route “cumbersome” and introduce tariffs and an “administrative burden” for small companies.
“What are we doing to prepare ourselves to get directly to the continent through ports in France and in Rotterdam or Belgium?” he asked.
The risk of a disorderly Brexit meant new investment in infrastructure may have to be accelerated, he said.
“These technical and infrastructure requirements arising from a hard Brexit are now real,” he said.
Mr Hogan said the Commission would also have to “intensify” no-deal contingency planning given the political divisions in London over the draft Brexit agreement.
The Commission would consider the situation after the UK parliament voted on Tuesday “to consider a plan B, if there is a plan B,” said Mr Hogan, though he stressed there was no alternative to the deal on the EU side.
Priti Patel: suggested food supplies to and from Ireland should be a bargaining chip