Tuesday 17 September 2019

Phil Hogan hits back at Tory politician's Brexit 'starvation threats' to Ireland

Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Mary Browne
Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Mary Browne
John Downing

John Downing

Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has hit back at suggestions by a leading British Conservative politician that London should use 'starvation threats' against Ireland in last-ditch Brexit talks.

Former UK International Development Minister, Priti Patel, was commenting on an official British report which noted Ireland would lose 7pc of its wealth or GDP in a crash-out no-deal. The same report also noted that there would be food shortages in Ireland because about half this country’s food imports are routed via the UK.

Ms Patel told the London newspaper, 'The Times', that this harsh fact should be used to leverage support for a better Brexit deal even at this late stage.

"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," Ms Patel commented.

But in Dublin, EU Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, utterly condemned the comments. He said the UK imported 60pc of its food needs, and 43pc of these came from Ireland, with products of high quality very 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 told the Association of European Journalists.

"I think consumers would be horrified that a senior politician, and former minister, would take such a view of being hostile to the food requirements or the food security of the country they are residing in," the Irish Commissioner added.

Mr Hogan insisted that, if British Prime Minister Theresa May, loses next week’s vital House of Commons vote on the draft Brexit deal, the EU will "not budge" on the Irish backstop.

He said there had never been such unity among the other 27 EU member states as there had been on the issue of Brexit and Brussels’ support for Ireland will remain constant.

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