Wednesday 25 April 2018

Boris 'totally out of kilter' when it comes to Brexit deal, says Hogan

Warning that chaos among 'Leave' contingent is further stalling clarity on exit negotiations

Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, arriving for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, arriving for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan have said they will look to Theresa May when they want Brexit statements from the UK government, not Boris Johnson.

Mr Hogan has described an article written by Mr Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, as "ridiculous".

The former environment minister said Mr Johnson's attitude is "totally out of kilter with his own government's negotiation position" on Brexit.

Amid suggestions Mr Johnson is angling for a leadership contest in the Conservative Party, Mr Hogan said there may be "political reasons" for a 4,000-word article penned by the former mayor of London on Brexit earlier this week.

"I don't know why the foreign secretary would intervene at this moment in time, to be troublesome in advance of Mrs May's very significant speech.

"Maybe there are political reasons for that, but they are not sound economically or in terms of the proposals necessary to bring sides together and bring momentum to the negotiations," he said.

Mrs May is due to set out the UK's latest position on Brexit in a much-hyped speech in Florence today.

In advance of that, Mr Varadkar said: "As far as I'm concerned, Theresa May speaks for the British government. I'm hoping we'll see some sign of a progress signal in the speech, some indication that we're moving towards an orderly Brexit and in particular a soft Brexit that limits any damage to the Irish economy."

Read More: EU 'will never allow Ireland to suffer from UK's decision to leave'

In recent days Mr Johnson said the UK should not pay for access to European markets.

He also reignited the debate over how an extra £350m (€398m) will be available for the NHS after Brexit.

But in a severe slap down, Mr Hogan said: "The £350m that every week is supposed to come back to the health service, he doesn't seem to realise that won't ever happen. He doesn't seem to realise Mr (Nigel) Farage walked away from that commitment the day after the referendum."

Mr Hogan said the 'Leave' campaigners were "surprised" they won and "don't know what to do".

Stalled

As a result, the Commissioner says the exit negotiations are "stalled", adding that an October deadline for the end of the first phase of talks could have to be pushed back to December.

"We'd like to see movement. We need to get on with it. There has been stalling in recent months. Unless something dramatic happens this decision to say that we have made enough progress to move on to the next phase, the decision will have to be postponed until December," Mr Hogan said.

Mrs May is expected to tell EU leaders today they share a "profound sense of responsibility" to forge a Brexit deal for the benefit of those who "inherit the world we leave them".

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The British prime minister will reportedly use her speech in Florence to tell European negotiators and heads of state that "the eyes of the world are upon us" and that they must use imagination to make a success of "this chapter of our European history".

Mrs May will insist that "the future is bright" as she sets out her vision of Britain's post-Brexit relationship with Europe.

Downing Street said the speech - her most significant on Brexit since January - would include a blueprint for a "bold new economic and security partnership" and set out plans for a time-limited implementation period, offering "certainty and clarity to businesses and citizens".

The speech will contain no concrete offer on the Brexit bill, only an initial promise that Britain will continue to pay into EU funds during a two-year transition period - a sum likely to be around £20bn (€22.7bn).

Although EU negotiators will continue to demand more, Mrs May will reassure them that no EU member state will have to pay more to Brussels before 2020 as a result of Brexit.

Mrs May will also highlight Britain's strengths such as its legal system, openness to investment, ease of doing business and its universities and research.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, used a speech in Rome yesterday to pile pressure on Mrs May, saying that "settling accounts" with the EU - in other words agreeing the so-called "divorce bill" - is the only way to "build trust" as Brexit talks continue.

Mr Barnier, said that the British prime minister should make the EU firm offers by next week to break the deadlock in Brexit talks.

Mr Barnier said he was wondering why there was still "major uncertainty" on all key issues that Brussels wanted settled before opening talks on the transition to a future trade deal.

"To make progress, we are waiting for clear commitments from the UK on these precise issues," Mr Barnier said, noting demands for European Union citizens in Britain to have their rights there protected by EU courts and for London to pay a hefty bill before leaving.

Irish Independent

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