As the government seems in the finals throes of thrashing out its Brexit proposals, a prominent Labour Brexiteer has accused Theresa May of caring more about Irish views than her own fellow citizens.
Kate Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall, the Northern Ireland-born politician hit out at both Dublin and London’s handling of the Brexit situation, accusing the Irish government of playing “hardball” and behaving “shamefully” – and the Westminster leadership of having “fallen for it”.
She was writing today on the Labour website LabourList (akin to ConservativeHome) – a site which describes itself as “supportive of the Labour Party, but independent of it”.
She began by saying: “During all my years as an MP, the interest shown by most of my colleagues in Northern Ireland has been minimal. The Labour Party even had to be taken to court by a trade unionist in Belfast before it finally allowed citizens of Northern Ireland to join.”
She went on to say it is therefore “ironic that in the Brexit debate Labour MPs have been queuing up to mention Northern Ireland”.
“What happens at the border after we leave the EU has become the ‘big sticking point’ causing the Prime Minister to make commitments to backstops that few understand and even fewer support,” she said.
“The repeatedly stated aim of the EU, the UK and the Irish government is to avoid creating a hard border. They never actually define what a hard border is, but I assume that they mean not having huge structures acting as barriers with flashing lights and cameras as used to be there.
“It is conveniently forgotten that those barriers were only there when the IRA was active, bombing and killing our soldiers and police officers.”
She said the present invisible border copes with excise duties, VAT and currency changes, and that “with good will and cooperation, there is no need for any new structures”.
However, she added: “The Irish government, in cahoots with the EU, has deliberately made the border an issue and unfortunately our Prime Minister and her officials have fallen for it completely by agreeing to a backstop that would see NI being treated differently to the rest of the UK.
“Implying that the peace process is threatened by a hard border, even though no-one has said they will build it, is scaremongering of the worst kind. The EU wants to keep us locked in to their regulations and rules: the Irish government is playing hardball even though it would suffer most if the UK were to leave on World Trade Organisation rules.
“The Irish PM has behaved rather shamefully with some of his rhetoric and is clearly intent on becoming a future EU commissioner.”
She further accused taoiseach Leo Varadkar of “hypocrisy”, saying that whilst Irish vessels can fish freely in UK waters, a dispute stemming from 2016 means there is no reciprocal right for Northern Irish fishermen.
She said that “the question arises: how long does the UK keep to the moral high ground when dealing with an Irish government that is taking our goodwill for granted?,” adding: “When will the Prime Minister speak out and condemn this behaviour?
“When will she start speaking out in support of British citizens rather than seeming to care more about Irish views?
“It is this hypocrisy from Dublin that makes it certain that I and many other MPs will not support an agreement with the EU that panders to this kind of behaviour.”
The Taoiseach’s Office in Dublin referred the News Letter to the Department for Foreign Affairs, who in turn declined to comment.
No comment was received from Downing Street at time of going to press.