Priti Patel draws flak over Ireland food deficit remark

Britain’s Indian-origin former Cabinet Minister Priti Patel has faced condemnation in the U.K., 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. She also said the U.K. should persuade Ireland 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% drop in GDP (against a 5% drop for Great Britain — Ms. 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.”

Ms. 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. She has also been part of the European Research Group, an influential group of Conservative MPs pushing for a “hard” Brexit.

History of famines

Her comments were swiftly condemned by politicians in the U.K. 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.