Tory threats to starve Ireland to push Brexit through are beyond desperate

Theresa May surrounded by Union Jack and Brexit flags
Support us and go ad-free

Leaked government papers revealed by the Times on 7 December indicate that Ireland will suffer “food shortages” and take “a bigger economic hit than Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit”. But some Conservative MPs jumped on this information to ‘threaten’ Ireland with food shortages if Theresa May’s Brexit deal doesn’t go through because Ireland refuses to drop the backstop. The so-called backstop with Northern Ireland has caused concern for many parties. And it threatens to derail May’s deal.

This latest scare tactic is beyond desperate given Ireland’s history. Because between 1846 and 1851, over a million people died of starvation and disease in Ireland.

“Morally reprehensible”

According to the Times, Ireland is “more dependent on the UK than the other way round”. The assessment showed that, because 80% of Irish goods headed to the EU pass through the UK, additional border checks “would cause challenges”. The papers also warned that “political and social damage would likely follow” a no-deal Brexit.

But disgraced former cabinet minister Priti Patel is reported in the Times to have said:

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 the negotiations? There is still time to go back to Brussels and get a better deal.

Threatening the Irish people seems like a move to influence the Commons Brexit vote on 11 December. Because as explained, Patel implied that “these warnings should have been used as leverage against Ireland to encourage them to drop the backstop”.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy told the Times:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Threatening Ireland in this way is as morally reprehensible as it is futile. Britain should be showing itself to be a dependable neighbour and friend in the future, and it is frightening that Brexiteers are even contemplating a move which could see stopping trade, including food supplies, being weaponised in this way, particularly given the uncomfortable historical echoes.

As Times journalist Sam Coates said, it sparked a “huge emotive row”:

“Moral bankruptcy”

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, called this “sheer moral bankruptcy”:

And Patel’s comments caused outrage:

The issue is compounded because of An Górta Mór – the Great Hunger – a devastating period in Irish history. Over a million people died, and millions more fled abroad. Far from being a famine, many people believe it was a politically motivated and controlled situation. Many view it as a direct act of genocide by the British government against the Irish people:

A famine did not truly exist. There was no food shortage in Ireland evidenced by the fact that the British landowners continued to have a varied diet and food stuffs were exported… The starvation (and genocide) occurred as the British carried on their historical exploitation of the Irish people, failed to take appropriate action in the face of the failure of the potato crop, and maintained their racist attitude toward the Irish.

So as many people pointed out, we’ve been here before:

Seizing on the leaked papers in this way is a desperate act from a desperate government to push through a flawed deal. But now, it seems to have tipped any moral decency further away than we ever thought possible.

Featured image via Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916/Flickr

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Ireland has suffered under British rule.
      Britain needs to tread very carefully; Ireland enjoys popularity all over the world, much more these days than Britain. Trying to pressure/intimidate Ireland to comply with Westminster sounds a bit like the swamp across the pond with their dealings with countries who do not obey.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.