Ho­gan crit­i­cal of Tory MP’s food threat

The Irish Times - - World News - CLIFF TAYLOR and SI­MON CARWELL

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

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