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Up to Truss to confirm if she made Irish 'turnip' remarks around a no-deal Brexit - Varadkar

A no-deal Brexit would only affect a few Irish ‘farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks’, Truss allegedly said.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speaking during Leaders Questions today
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speaking during Leaders Questions today
Image: Oireachtas.ie

Updated May 19th 2022, 1:17 PM

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said it will be up to UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to confirm or deny whether or not she made remarks saying that the impact of a no-deal Brexit in Ireland would only “affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks”.

The claim comes from a Tweet by Alexandra Hall Hall, a former British ambassador to Georgia who was the lead Brexit envoy for the UK Government in Washington for several years.

Hall Hall alleged that Truss made the comments as part of a speech to a US audience in 2019.

Hall Hall had previously claimed to have heard a “senior British minister” make the comments about a no-deal Brexit, but on Wednesday she attributed the remarks to Truss, who was then trade secretary.

It is understood that those close to Truss have claimed not to recognise the comments.

Speaking during Leaders Questions earlier today, Varadkar said that he did not know whether or not Truss made those remarks in 2019.

“I don’t know whether Secretary Truss made those remarks or not, it’s obviously up to her to confirm or deny them,” said Varadkar.

featureimage UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss Source: PA

He made the comment in response to a question from Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín, who said that the alleged remarks “were an insight into the ignorance at the heart of the British bad faith when it comes to Brexit”.

“We all know that Brexit -  even the Brexit with the deal that we’ve had – has affected people and has affected businesses and has done so adversely in a lot of consequences,” said Varadkar.

“Although I think it would have been much worse if we didn’t have the deal that we have.”

Allegations

Hall Hall later quit as a diplomat after more than three decades in 2019, citing concerns over the UK Government’s handling of Brexit and being forced to “peddle half-truths”.

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She tweeted the claim about Truss as a reaction to a Tweet from the Foreign  Secretary which said the UK government’s “first priority is to uphold the Belfast Agreement”.

Hall Hall wrote in the Texas National Security Review journal last year that during her time as a diplomat in Washington, DC that Boris Johnson’s government damagingly played down the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland’s peace process in statements intended for US audiences.

In an article Hall Hall wrote in the autumn of 2021, she referenced the “turnip” remarks without attributing them to anyone in particular.

She described it as a “low point” of her time in Washington when a UK official “openly and offensively” in front of a US audience dismissed the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Irish businesses.

Additional reporting by Tadgh McNally

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