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Patel accused of ‘famine threats’ as she says risk of food shortages could be used against Republic

Sinn Fein lashed out at Priti Patel’s comments
Sinn Fein lashed out at Priti Patel’s comments

By James Gant

A row broke out yesterday after a former minister called for Britain to pressure the Irish Government with food shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

A Government report leaked to The Times found that if the UK left the EU without a deal, Ireland's trade in perishable goods would be hit.

More than half of food in Ireland is currently imported from the UK.

The report said that a no-deal Brexit would see the UK's GDP drop by 5% and Ireland's by 7%.

Priti Patel MP, who resigned as International Development Secretary in controversial circumstances last year, told The Times: "This paper appears to show the Government was well aware Ireland will face significant issues in a no-deal scenario.

"Why hasn't this been pressed home during the negotiations? There is still time to go back to Brussels and get a better deal."

But officials in Dublin were dismissive of the report and told the Irish Times that preparations were under way for all Brexit scenarios - including shortages in the food sector.

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said the MP's comments "exposes the Brexiteer attitude to Ireland as nothing more than a colonial irritant whose rights really shouldn't be taken into account".

He said: "They know the history of the Irish famine and Britain's role in it, and the very fact that they would seek to inject that into the Brexit debate is crass and offensive.

"The Tories couldn't care less about the impact of their reckless Brexit agenda on the people and economy of Ireland. We are simply collateral damage."

The row came as a separate official assessment suggested that a no-deal Brexit could lead to six months of chaos on key cross-Channel routes.

Ferries between Dover and Calais and traffic using the Channel Tunnel could be disrupted until the end of September 2019, according to the claims.

A letter sent by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS contained the warning.

He said: "Although we cannot know exactly what each member state will do with respect to checks on the EU border, the cross-Government planning assumptions have been revised so we can prepare for the potential impacts that the imposition of third country controls by member states could have.

"These impacts are likely to be felt mostly on the short straits crossings into Dover and Folkestone, where the frequent and closed loop nature of these mean that both exports and imports would be affected."

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