Friday 25 May 2018

'Tough guy' UK close to 'cliff edge of hard Brexit', warns Hogan

Ireland's European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Ireland's European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

European Commissioner Phil Hogan has launched a stinging attack on the UK's approach to Brexit, warning: "We're now so close to the cliff edge of a hard Brexit that we can see the drop almost in front of us."

Mr Hogan also said that "it's painfully clear the UK government is not going to propose workable solutions for the benefit of the island of Ireland".

He also hit out at hardline Brexiteers who he claimed are "hooked on brinkmanship".

During a speech in Brussels, the Irish Commissioner also spoke of the urgency of an agreement for the return of the Northern Ireland Executive and the need for renewed North-south co-operation to discuss potential solutions to a hard Brexit.

His outspoken remarks come ahead of a European Council meeting where the remaining 27 EU member states are set to decide that not enough progress has been made in the first phase of Brexit talks to move onto the issue of future trade with the UK.

Mr Hogan said he fears "common sense left the building a while ago" in the UK Brexit debate.

He argued that "unfortunately facts and details are derided by the Brexiteers" and that "at a time when all the talent and energy of British politicians should be focussed on delivering a good result in the London-Brussels negotiations the unfortunate reality is that the London-London negotiation is still going on".

He said it's his view that the October target for moving on to the next phase of talks has been missed and that "only serious engagement and realism can deliver an agreement by December".

However, Mr Hogan said: "What becomes more obvious day to day is that the Brexiteers are hooked on brinkmanship and have been since the beginning."

Solutions

Mr Hogan claimed that the hardliners' "only approach is the tough-guy approach".

"No matter what Brussels says or does. No matter what business in the EU says or does, no matter how many companies announce plans to move workers from the UK to new European Union headquarters, the hardliners cannot get it out of their heads the idea that if they bully their way towards the wire, the union's nerve will crack.

"They need to get it into their heads that this is not the way that the European Union works," he added.

"Unfortunately we're now so close to the cliff edge of a hard Brexit that we can see the drop almost in front of us.

"We have to hope that between now and December that other voices will be louder and heard and that managed Brexit will emerge as a credible option."

The European Council meeting in December is set to become the new deadline for completing phase one of the talks that involve Irish issues and the so-called divorce bill the UK will have to pay to settle its EU commitments.

"It's painfully clear that the UK government is not going to propose workable solutions for the benefit of the island of Ireland," Mr Hogan said.

"Indeed the low priority afforded to Northern Ireland over in London is very disheartening."

Mr Hogan was speaking at the Brussels launch of RTÉ correspondent Tony Connolly's book 'Brexit & Ireland. The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response'.

Irish Independent

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