Thursday 23 November 2017

Hogan wants May to win big UK majority to counter Tory 'lunatics'

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, Irish Independent columnist Tomás O Sé, FarmIreland.ie Editor Margaret Donnelly, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and INM Group Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rea at the FarmIreland.ie launch. Picture: Damien Eagers
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, Irish Independent columnist Tomás O Sé, FarmIreland.ie Editor Margaret Donnelly, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and INM Group Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rea at the FarmIreland.ie launch. Picture: Damien Eagers
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

Ireland's commissioner to the EU, Phil Hogan, has welcomed the snap UK election, saying he wants current British Prime Minister Theresa May to win a big majority.

Mr Hogan, who has served as European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development since November 2014 and whose comments could be met with raised eyebrows in the UK, also referred to "lunatics" in the British Tory party.

"I'm very happy that she's called this election.

"And, I hope that she gets the big majority because that should give more flexibility and less excuses for the British government to arrive at compromises with the European Union," he said.

Mr Hogan, who was environment minister before being appointed to Europe, was speaking yesterday at the launch of FarmIreland.ie at the Marker Hotel in Grand Canal Square, Dublin city centre.

Brexit was a hot topic at the launch, which included a panel discussion between the commissioner, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA).

Mr Hogan also said he previously predicted that the majority Mrs May held in the UK parliament was not sufficient.

"I predicted last October... I predicted a 17-seat majority for the Tory government wasn't enough to withstand some of the lunatics that are on the right of the Tory Party, that were obviously going to be difficult, no matter what particular negotiations were going on, no matter what good news the Tory Party might bring in the negotiations.

"If there is going to be a review of the negotiations every couple of months well then she is going to be in difficulty, in motions put down in the House of Commons on a regular basis," he said.

Mr Hogan said there have been indications over the last number of weeks that Mrs May will go softer in her approach to dealing with Brexit negotiations.

He was also asked about water charges, in light of the apparent end of the charges regime and his involvement in the attempt to establish them.

A FarmIreland.ie survey showed that some 78pc of farmers thought everyone should pay for water.

"I got it right," Mr Hogan said. However, he was coy when asked whether he still thought we should be paying for water.

"Well that's a matter for the Oireachtas at this stage, but certainly, I noted very carefully about the Oireachtas committee.

"And I noted particularly what (Environment Minister) Simon Coveney said, when he said he wasn't going to introduce legislation unless it was legal.

"And I hope (Fianna Fáil environment spokesperson) Barry Cowen agrees with that as well," he said.

Mr Hogan recently said he believed that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will go very soon.

However, he refused to be drawn on how he had come to that information.

Instead, he offered something of a tribute to Mr Kenny's time in office.

And he wished the Taoiseach a happy birthday on the occasion of his 66th yesterday.

"I wanted to take the opportunity of wishing him a happy birthday. He has done a tremendous job as Taoiseach under very difficult circumstances," he said.

"Also, I think he's been a man of integrity and he has been genuinely interested in restoring our sovereignty."

Irish Independent

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