British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told a right-wing American think tank in August 2019 that the only people in Ireland concerned with a no-deal Brexit were "farmers with a few turnips in the back of their truck", a former British diplomat has claimed.
Alexandra Hall Hall, a former British ambassador to Georgia and at the time Boris Johnson's Brexit counsellor in Washington, has said she was present when the Foreign Secretary allegedly made the remarks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on 8 August 2019.
Ms Hall Hall, who spent 33 years as a career diplomat in the Foreign Office, had alluded to the remarks in an article for the Texas National Security Review last October and attributed them to an unnamed serving British minister.
However, on social media last night Ms Hall Hall said that Ms Truss, the then trade secretary, was the minister who had made the remarks.
Ms Hall Hall said: "So pleased to see Liz Truss become a genuine expert on Irish matters: she was, after all, the minister who told a US audience three years ago that Brexit would not have any serious impact in Ireland … it would merely 'affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks'."
Ms Truss was in the US to meet senior Trump administration officials Robert Lighthizer and Wilbur Ross, as well as US Congress representatives and business groups in August 2019, shortly after Mr Johnson became prime minister.
On the last night of her visit, she delivered a speech to the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, on Britain's post-Brexit global policy ambitions.
In the Texas National Security Review last autumn, Ms Hall Hall had said the UK diplomatic corps and civil servants had been required to promote untruths and inconsistencies about the impact of a no-deal Brexit once Mr Johnson became Conservative Party leader in July 2019.
"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 eventually resigned as a diplomat, citing her unhappiness at having to disseminate "misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications" of a no-deal Brexit on behalf of the UK government, according to her resignation letter.
She had served in British embassies in Washington, Bogota, New Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilisi.
Ms Hall Hall has said publicly that she did not vote for Brexit, but that as a civil servant she promoted the government’s policy in implementing the result of the referendum.
However, she has said she was increasingly uneasy at being asked to defend UK government positions, which she said were untenable.
This evening, a UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office source said they did not recognise the comments.