Wednesday 22 November 2017

Britain's commissioner resigns after Brexit - a move seen as a major loss to Ireland

Britain's EU Commissioner Lord Jonathan Hill REUTERS/Yves Herman
Britain's EU Commissioner Lord Jonathan Hill REUTERS/Yves Herman

Andrew Woodcock, Press Association Political Editor

The UK's European Commissioner has announced he will stand down from his post in the wake of Thursday's referendum vote to leave the EU.

Jonathan Hill said he was "very disappointed" by the outcome of the vote and was convinced UK membership was "good for our place in the world and good for our economy".

He will continue his work as commissioner for financial stability until July 15 to allow for the "orderly handover" of his responsibilities to commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis of Latvia.

Irish MEP Brian Hayes said the resignation was a blow to Ireland, but added that it could not delay banking or financial reforms.

“As the executive body of the EU, the Commission proposed and implements EU law. It’s not acceptable to me that an area like financial services has no Commissioner driving reform. We cannot forget the 35,000 financial services jobs based in Dublin’s docklands," Mr Hayes said.

“Commissioner Hill is someone I worked with closely and who had an intimate understanding of financial services from Dublin’s perspective. He also had a sensible view about how the real economy works, about how to get new forms of lending into the economy, and who was promoting the idea of a Capital Markets Union.

“We have to be realistic, Prime Minister Cameron now has no mandate to propose a new Commissioner and the European Parliament is unlikely to approve such an appointment. Financial services reform cannot be the latest casualty of the Brexit vote. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker must reassign responsibility for financial services and Capital Markets Union among his college of Commissioners immediately.”

In a statement, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK remains entitled to a seat on the commission while it is a member of the EU, and made clear he was ready for "swift" discussions with Mr Cameron on a replacement.

Mr Juncker said he had decided to hand the financial stability brief to Britain in 2014 "as a sign of my confidence in the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union", adding: "To my great regret, this situation is now changing."

He said: "I have tried to convince Lord Hill to stay on as Commissioner. I consider him to be a true European and not just the British Commissioner. However, I understand his decision and I respect it."

In a statement, Lord Hill said: "Like many people here and in the UK, I am obviously very disappointed about the result of the referendum.

"I wanted it to end differently and had hoped that Britain would want to play a role in arguing for an outward-looking, flexible, competitive, free-trade Europe. But the British people took a different decision and that is the way that democracy works.

"As we move to a new phase, I don't believe it is right that I should carry on as the British Commissioner as though nothing had happened."

He added: "I came to Brussels as someone who had campaigned against Britain joining the euro and who was sceptical about Europe.

"I will leave it certain that, despite its frustrations, our membership was good for our place in the world and good for our economy.

"But what is done cannot be undone and now we have to get on with making our new relationship with Europe work as well as possible."

Former PR lobbyist and Conservative minister Jonathan Hill, 55, was appointed by Mr Cameron in 2014 to take over the UK's seat on the commission from Baroness Ashton, who had served under Mr Juncker's predecessor Jose Manuel Barroso.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister is sorry that Lord Hill has decided to step down. He is extremely grateful to Lord Hill for his service at the European Commission in the crucial portfolio of financial stability, financial services and capital markets union.

"He has done an excellent job as a commissioner - helping to focus the European Commission on measures to promote growth and jobs, in particular his proposals to increase the flow of affordable investment capital across the EU and for giving the UK a strong voice in the European Commission. The Prime Minister wishes Lord Hill well for the future."

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