Suggestion from UK MP to use Irish food shortages as Brexit bargaining chip 'despicable'

Priti Patel claims her remarks have been 'taken out of context'

Suggestion from UK MP to use Irish food shortages as Brexit bargaining chip 'despicable'

British MP Priti Patel attending the launch of an Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit research paper in London | Image: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

Updated 21:20

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on a British MP to withdraw comments, suggesting food shortages in Ireland could be used to force a change to Britain's Brexit deal.

Priti Patel has said that Ireland could face "significant issues" in a no-deal situation.

Leaked British government papers, seen by The Times in the UK, have claimed Ireland could face food shortages and a bigger economic hit than Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Cabinet ministers and Brexiteers believe their contents could allow British Prime Minister Theresa May ramp up pressure to drop the Irish border backstop.

The piece, which does not appear in the Irish version of the newspaper, has claimed food supplies would be particularly affected.

To this, Ms Patel - who resigned as Britain's international development secretary last November - said: "The 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 negations? There is still time to go back to Brussels and get a better deal".

Ms Patel has since claimed the remarks have been 'taken out of context'.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media on the plinth of Leinister House on Brexit | Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Earlier, Ms McDonald hit out at the comments, and said Ms Patel should re-consider them.

"That statement was, for obvious historical reasons, very distasteful, and insensitive and gauche.

"It also belies, really, a reckless and almost juvenile mentality."

"They're not entitled to wreck Ireland and they need to really grasp and understand that.

"And we will stand firm in defending Irish interests - and we're not about to be bullied and we're not about to be threatened by that MP or any other.

"I would hope that she would re-consider those comments and actually withdraw them from the public record.

"Not least I think they made her look silly and intemperate".

Liadh Ní Riada speaking after a radio presidential debate in Dublin in October 2018 | Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

While Sinn Féin MEP and former Presidential candidate Liadh Ní Riada has described the suggestion as "despicable."

She said: "Not only do these comments reek of desperation from the Tories but it further illustrates the absolute moral bankruptcy that is rampant in the Conservatives when it comes to Ireland."

Ms Ní Riada claimed the comments are poignant, given the history between Ireland and Britain during the Great Famine - which she described as "genocide inflicted on this country by Britain".

"It's a despicable comment to make and indicative of how desperate the Tories are getting as their aimless Brexit blundering continues to implode.

"The mask has well and truly slipped here.

"We're all used to hearing Theresa May's contrived over-earnestness as she stresses over and over how she doesn't want to see a hard border but this is exactly what they think of Ireland.

"The Government and the EU would do well to remember that when dealing with the Tories on Brexit."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh | Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the comments show "the sheer moral bankruptcy of the Tory Brexiteers".

Additional reporting: Sean Defoe