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Liz Truss claimed Brexit bad only for ‘a few Irish farmers with turnips’, former diplomat alleges

Alexandra Hall Hall claims Ms Truss made the comments in 2019


Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Photo: PA

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Photo: PA

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Photo: PA

A former British diplomat has claimed that UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss remarked in 2019 that the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Ireland would only “affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks”.

The claim comes as Ms Truss continues to defend UK Government plans to legislate to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol as necessary to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

Alexandra Hall Hall, a former British ambassador to Georgia who was the lead Brexit envoy for the UK government in Washington for several years, alleged Ms Truss made the comments as part of a speech to a US audience in 2019.

She tweeted yesterday: “So pleased to see Liz Truss become a genuine expert on Irish matters.”

“She was, after all, the minister who told a US audience three years ago that Brexit would not have any serious impact in Ireland… it would merely ‘affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks’.”

Ms Hall Hall had previously claimed to have heard a “senior British minister” make the comments about a no-deal Brexit, but yesterday she attributed the remarks to Ms Truss, who was then trade secretary.

It is understood that those close to Ms Truss have claimed not to recognise the comments.

Ms Hall Hall later quit as a diplomat after more than three decades in 2019, citing concerns over the UK Government’s handling of Brexit and being forced to “peddle half-truths”.

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Meanwhile, a Fine Gael TD has urged the Government to establish a parliamentary committee on Irish unity.

Neale Richmond said that the Irish Government should form the Oireachtas committee ahead of a possible border poll.

Mr Richmond believes that a poll on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, provision for which was contained in the Good Friday Agreement, could be held in the next decade.

The Fine Gael TD was speaking yesterday at an event in London hosted by Ireland’s Future, a campaign group calling for greater debate on the unification of the island.

The event was also attended by SDLP MP Claire Hanna, Sinn Fein MP John Finucane and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, as well as Alliance Party deputy leader and MP Stephen Farry.

“Brexit has fundamentally changed the tone of debate when it comes to Irish unity and the fact that this British Government has chosen to pursue the hardest possible form of Brexit has put in stark context the divisions that exist across these islands,” he said.

“It is now very conceivable that a British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland could call a Border poll on Irish unity within the next decade.

“It is therefore the Irish Government’s duty to ensure that we are as best prepared as possible to meet the challenge of such a referendum.

“Brexit has shown us what happens when you ask a question with no clear outline of what the answer looks like, let’s learn from the lessons of Brexit and take a responsible path forward.”

However, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said earlier this week he did not believe the test for calling a referendum had been met.

The Tanaiste also suggested a potential role for the Stormont Assembly in triggering a future poll.

While Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party in the recent Assembly election, Mr Varadkar noted that the overall number of MLAs at Stormont who supported unification had fallen amid a surge by the unaligned Alliance Party.

But he added: “I do think we’ll need to clarify the mechanism for calling a border poll. Surely it should involve the Northern Ireland Assembly and not just be the judgment of the Secretary of State.

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