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Conservative MEP under fire for displaying ‘ignore the Irish’ poster amid Brexit tension

·Brussels correspondent
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan (European Parliament)
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan (European Parliament)

A prominent Brexit-supporting politician has come under fire for displaying a poster that says “ignore the Irish” in his office.

The placard was spotted propped up against a window in a European parliament office that belongs to Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan.

A photo of it has been posted by Irish senator Neale Richmond, who chairs the Brexit committee of the Irish parliament’s upper house.

Richmond said it was “worrying” that the poster was on display in the office of an “arch Brexiteer.”

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Hannan pointed out the placard was made for a protest held shortly after Ireland’s 2008 referendum rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

In a statement, he said: “Following the 2008 referendum in Ireland, there was a backlash in Brussels, with EU leaders immediately ordering Ireland to vote again.

“I was part of a demonstration in Brussels in favour of respecting the result.

“As part of it, various people wore the masks of prominent Eurocrats and held up ‘Ignore the Irish’ placards – making the point that the EU was disregarding the voters again. That looks like a picture of one of those 2008 placards.”

But Hannan’s office couldn’t say why the poster was on display again when asked by Yahoo UK.

It’s the sensitive timing of the poster’s re-emergence that has sparked a controversy.

The photo comes amid a stand-off between the UK and EU over an Irish border “backstop” which could yet derail Brexit talks completely.

And Richmond told Yahoo UK: “I find the explanation that the poster would just happen to be lying around to be a bit of a stretch. The campaign referenced by Mr Hannan was over 10 years ago.

“In his pursuit of a Brexit at all costs, Mr Hannan has shown a complete disregard for the negative impacts Brexit will have on the UK as well as dismissing the very serious concerns raised by the Irish government and our European negotiating partners particularly when it comes to the issue of the Irish border and the threat Brexit poses to the Good Friday Agreement.”

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The EU and UK have agreed a “backstop” solution to avoiding a hard border in Ireland must be part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

But failure to find a solution that respects the red lines of both sides has left us on the brink of a no-deal Brexit. Negotiators now have just three weeks to find a workable plan.

Earlier this year, Hannan accused the EU of “seeking to use the Irish border to undermine Brexit.”

“For some Europhiles, this isn’t about the practicalities of the Irish border,” he said. “It’s about their unwillingness to accept the Brexit vote.”