Northern Ireland news

British minister 'claimed no-deal Brexit would only hit a few Irish farmers with turnips in their trucks'

Loyalists during a September rally in east Belfast against the Northern Ireland Protocol. File picture by Peter Morrison, Press Association

A FORMER British diplomat said one government minister dismissed the risk of a no-deal Brexit on Irish firms as only affecting "a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks".

Alexandra Hall Hall resigned from her senior role in Washington in 2019.

She has now written an article accusing Boris Johnson's government of being "deliberately misleading" over Brexit and its effect on the peace process in the lead up to the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

Ms Hall Hall has more than 30 years of experience in diplomatic roles.

She worked as UK Brexit counsellor at the British embassy in Washington - a post which she said carried the "responsibility of explaining Brexit to American audiences".

Ms Hall Hall resigned in December 2019, saying she could no longer "peddle half-truths" on behalf of political leaders she did not "trust".

In an article she wrote for a US journal, the Texas National Security Review, she has deepened her criticism of Mr Johnson's government.

She said after he became prime minister in July 2019, Mr Johnson's government "downplayed" the impact of Brexit in terms of its likely costs and its effect on international trade.

"They were not simply putting a positive spin on policy — a normal practice of any government — but were wilfully disingenuous," she wrote.

Ms Hall Hall added that the government also "downplayed the consequences of Brexit for the delicate peace process in Northern Ireland, in which the United States was a core stakeholder, having helped to broker the Good Friday Agreement".

"A low point for me was when I heard a senior British minister openly and offensively, in front of a US audience, dismiss the impact of a 'no-deal' Brexit on Irish businesses as just affecting 'a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks'," she wrote.

Ms Hall Hall had to provide Brexit briefings for US businesses with significant investments in the UK and said she found herself "struggling to maintain the line that there would be no harmful consequences for them" from a possible no-deal Brexit.


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