Tuesday 21 November 2017

Boris Johnson 'out of the loop' over Brexit - Hogan

Boris Johnson. Photo: Reuters
Boris Johnson. Photo: Reuters

Laura Hughes

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has launched a blistering attack on UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, claiming that he is "completely out of the loop" on Brexit.

Mr Hogan warned that Mr Johnson had become a "diminished figure" in Westminster and accused of him of "behaving strangely".

The attack came as UK Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to give a landmark speech in Florence on Britain's plans to leave the EU.

Mr Hogan also said Mr Johnson's recent remarks on Brexit had been "completely contradictory" and "completely at odds" with the position of the British government.

In an interview with the London 'Evening Standard', Mr Hogan added: "Clearly, he is not directly involved in the negotiations on behalf of the British government with the EU.

"He certainly has made very strange statements that are completely contradictory and at odds with his own government's position, as well as the possibility of being reasonable with the EU in finalising a deal.

"So it strikes me that he is completely out of the loop in relation to the type of concrete proposals that are required and that are being considered by the UK government.

"Mr Johnson is behaving, acting and speaking strangely. It is clear that his reputation is not good and he is a diminished figure in the government," Mr Hogan added.

His comments came after Mr Johnson had set out his Brexit blueprint in a 4,000-word article. He said Britain should not pay for access to European markets and must seize the opportunity to reform the UK's tax system to encourage investment.

Mr Hogan criticised the document and said it was extraordinary that the UK's foreign secretary did not mention the Good Friday Agreement or the Border.

"It's amazing that the UK's foreign secretary can publish a 4,000-word article about the UK's Brexit future and not mention the Irish Border," Mr Hogan said.

"You'd think that he would have ideas about how to manage the UK's main land border with the European Union, but obviously not.

"So if Mrs May, in her speech in Florence, is as vague on the three questions as Mr Johnson was, then the signs will not be good."

Meanwhile, the European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has said the UK must address its failure to present a workable solution to the Irish Border problem before Brexit negotiations can proceed to the next stage.

Speaking in Belfast during a two-day fact-finding mission, Mr Verhofstadt said the answer could lie in Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union and single market post-Brexit, even if the rest of the UK leaves.

He stressed that a "unique solution" was needed to halt the return of a hard Border.

He called for "a unique solution, in that there is no resurrection of a hard border in Northern Ireland, because that is not in the interests of business in Northern Ireland and Ireland, neither in the interests of the citizens."

The former Belgian prime minister will spend today in Dublin, where he will meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and address a joint sitting of Oireachtas committees.

Irish Independent

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