Britain-Indian MP’s suggestion to use threat of food shortages against Ireland draws flak

Vidya Ram London | Updated on December 07, 2018

Priti Patel   -  AFP

Britain’s Indian-origin former Cabinet Minister Priti Patel has faced condemnation in the UK, Ireland and beyond for suggesting that Britain should use the food shortages that Ireland would suffer in the event of a no-deal as leverage to improve the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, and persuade it to drop its insistence on a backstop being in place to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland.

The Times reported that in response to leaked government papers suggesting Ireland (the EU nation) would face food shortages —and a 7 per cent drop in GDP (against a 5 per cent drop for Great Britain) – Patel questioned why this point hadn’t been “pressed home during the negotiations. There is still time to go back to Brussels and get a better deal.”

Patel resigned last year as Britain’s International Development Secretary over a “family holiday” to Israel during which she met senior Israeli politicians but has been a vocal critic of the direction of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, often accusing the government of not pursuing a tough enough line in its negotiations. She has also been part of the European Research Group, an influential group of Conservative MPs pushing for a “hard” Brexit.

Her comments were swiftly condemned by politicians in the UK and Ireland, particularly given the massive loss of life through famine that Ireland had experienced in past centuries. This includes a period between 1845 to 1949 when over a million people are estimated to have died as a result of mass starvation.

“This is an insult to all the people of Ireland. It displays ignorance to history and a political insensitivity that is unworthy of an MP. She should retract and apologise,” said Labour’s Tom Watson.

Patel’s remarks come ahead of the December 11 vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Hard Brexiteers are threatening to vote against it because of backstop or insurance arrangements in it that are designed to prevent a hard border developing in Ireland if the two sides fail to reach an agreement on future relations. May has insisted that the deal on the table is the only one available, putting Britain at risk of crashing out of the EU or no Brexit at all.

Published on December 07, 2018

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