NICOLA Sturgeon has blasted the “sheer moral bankruptcy” of Brexiteers, after a former Tory government minister seemed to advocate starving the Irish as leverage in any no-deal negotiations.

Government papers leaked to the Times suggested Ireland would face food shortages and economic difficulties if the UK failed to secure an agreement with the EU.

The papers say the no-deal Brexit would cause a 7% drop in GDP for Ireland, compared to a 5% drop in Britain.

This is because Ireland is “a more open economy than the UK, accounting for 60% of GDP comprised of goods imports and exports, as opposed to 40% for Great Britain”.

With 80% of Irish road freight that reaches the EU passing through the UK, the assessment warns that any additional checks at the border “would cause challenges”.

The papers specify that trade in perishable goods, such as food supplies, would be particularly badly affected.

READ: Joanna Cherry gives incredible speech on 'toxic' Tory Brexit

Priti Patel, a former international development secretary, said: “This paper appears to show the government were well aware Ireland will face significant issues in a no-deal scenario. Why hasn’t this point been pressed home during the negotiations?

“There is still time to go back to Brussels and get a better deal.”

Patel’s comments have gone down badly in Ireland.

Northern Irish politician Naomi Long tweeted: “This kind of comment from MPs like Priti Patel demonstrate not only profound ignorance of and insensitivity about our history but also reckless indifference to the impact on relations today."

Sinn Fein councillor Sarah Holland said: “Don't know why anyone is surprised at Priti Patel wondering aloud about starting a siege on Ireland to force us to acquiesce. The Tories have zero qualms about starving their own people to death whilst claiming massive expenses to make comfortable homes for their ducks."

READ MORE: The story of how six Scottish politicians took on the UK and the EU

Brexit Mark Hennessy, the news editor of the Irish Times, said Patel needed to learn a little history: “We had a man here once called Charles Trevalyan. He had lots of thoughts about the Irish and food. Perhaps someone should have a word with Priti Patel about how not to insult friends #brexit #conservatives”.

The Scottish First Minister tweeted: “The sheer moral bankruptcy of the Tory Brexiteers is on full display today.”

Ex-Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, who is of Irish heritage, said: “It amazes me that these expensively educated Brexiteers have literally learned nowt about the history of these very isles”.

In Dublin, official sources dismissed the paper, telling the Irish Times that extensive preparations were underway to prepare for all Brexit scenarios, including in the food sector.