No deal on Brexit risks food shortage in Ireland: leak
Ireland faces food shortages and will suffer a bigger economic hit than Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to leaked UK Government papers.
Cabinet ministers and Brexiteers have seized on the papers, obtained by as they believe their contents could let Theresa May put pressure on Ireland to drop the ‘‘backstop’’.
The papers say the UK leaving the EU without a deal would cause a 7 per cent drop in GDP for Ireland, compared with a 5 per cent drop in Britain. This is because Ireland is ‘‘a more open economy than the UK, accounting for 60 per cent of GDP comprised of goods imports and exports, as opposed to 40 per cent for Great Britain’’.
Ireland is also more dependent on the UK than the other way round, with Britain accounting for 13.1 per cent of Irish exports and 29.1 per cent of imports, the papers say.
Some 80 per cent of Irish road freight that reaches the EU passes through the UK. Any additional checks at the border – even one way from Great Britain into Ireland – ‘‘would cause challenges’’, according to the assessment. It adds that ‘‘political and social damage would likely follow’’.
The papers specify that trade in perishable goods, such as food supplies, would be particularly badly affected.
Priti Patel, the former cabinet minister, said: ‘‘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 the negotiations? There is still time to go back to Brussels and get a better deal.’’
Lisa Nandy, a Labour MP, said: ‘‘Threatening Ireland in this way is as morally reprehensible as it is futile.
‘‘Britain should be showing itself to be a dependable neighbour and friend in the future, and it is frightening that Brexiteers are even contemplating a move which could see stopping trade, including food supplies, being weaponised in this way, particularly given the uncomfortable historical echoes.’’
A senior Irish government source said that a deal on the withdrawal agreement has already been reached between the EU taskforce and the UK Government, which includes a backstop for the Irish border.
‘‘That will not be changing, under any circumstances,’’ the source said.
Another Irish government source said that contingency planning for a hard Brexit had been under way for most of this year.
‘‘We are prepared if there is a nodeal scenario next March.
‘‘We also have a commitment from the European Commission to support Ireland against the fallout from a hard Brexit.’’