EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. RollingNews.ie file photo.
By Irish Echo Staff
This might not be the best news of the day for the Johnson government and Trump administration.
The European Union’s new Commissioner for Trade is Irishman Phil Hogan.
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And he has little or no time for Brexit.
Hogan will lead the EU’s future trade negotiations with both the United States and post-Brexit United Kingdom.
And Hogan, according to a report in the Irish independent, “has sent blistering warnings to Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in his first comments since being appointed EU Commissioner for Trade.”
The former Irish government minister and current EU Agriculture Commissioner, said he would engage in “ground hurling” when dealing with the United States and said the UK can’t get away from the Irish question by pursuing a no deal Brexit.
Hogan’s nomination to the most powerful economic portfolio in the EU will raise eyebrows in London and he will now be central to talks on the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU, said the Independent report.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Commissioner Hogan will of course work for Europe as a whole, but it is a definite advantage to have an Irish person in charge of this crucial brief over the next five years.
“He will take the lead on the EU’s post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, as well as Mercosur and the EU’s trading relations with India, the U.S. and China.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney described Mr. Hogan as “a very tough negotiator.”
“He understands Ireland obviously very, very well and understands rural Ireland and agriculture very, very well. And has now an awful lot of experience understanding the EU as a collective, because he’s been a commissioner for five years,” Mr. Coveney said.
“So on lots of levels this is a very positive story for Ireland, for the EU, for agriculture. That being said, he will have to, effectively, do the bidding of the EU.
“But certainly understanding Irish concerns intimately will allow him to do it in a way that from our perspective will be helpful. On finalizing trade agreements on Mercosur (a proposed but now threatened deal between South American countries and the EU) or future trade agreements with the UK, having somebody at the helm who understands the Irish vulnerabilities and concerns can only be a good thing,” Coveney added.
European Commission president-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, said that Mr. Hogan “is known as a hard and a fair negotiator.”
He will join forces with former Brexit deputy negotiator Sabine Weyand, who was in June appointed director general of the commission’s trade directorate.
Hogan, a former Carlow/Kilkenny TD, made headlines recently by describing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as an “unelected” Prime Minister who was “gambling” with the peace process.
Hogan also warned that a hard Brexit will create a “foul atmosphere” with the EU that will have “serious consequences” for the UK’s chances of a future trade deal with the bloc.
Mr. Hogan, who was speaking at the Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School in Carlingford, said that Mr. Johnson had “stacked his cabinet with a Hard Brexit Dream Team” and accused Johnson of putting party interests above the UK’s.
He said that people in the UK would suffer most from a hard Brexit.
Added Hogan: “The UK continues to negotiate based on its experience of being an EU member. This misses the point completely: from the moment the UK came back to Brussels with the infamous red lines, the EU has negotiated on the basis of the UK opting for third country status.
Mr. Hogan said the UK needed to “get real” about the importance of the border backstop. He said that both sides had made a commitment to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and the backstop was the “only means identified so far by both parties to honor this agreement.”
He said it was not anti-democratic, but “a necessary, legally operative solution built into the Withdrawal Agreement.”
That agreement was negotiated by the Theresa May government but was voted down three times by the British parliament.
That parliament, and the Johnson-led government, now has a clearer idea of what it faces in securing a post-Brexit trade deal with its 27 former EU partners.
The way forward will be through a less than sympathetic Irishman.