Friday 20 September 2019

Phil Hogan promises 'bit of ground hurling' with Donald Trump after being appointed EU trade commissioner

Incoming: Phil Hogan is to be named EU trade commissioner for the next five years. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman
Incoming: Phil Hogan is to be named EU trade commissioner for the next five years. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

Kevin Doyle and Shawn Pogatchnik

Phil Hogan has sent blistering warnings to Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in his first comments since being appointed EU Commissioner for Trade.

The ex-minister promised to engage in “ground hurling” when dealing with the United States and said the UK can’t get away from the Irish question by pursuing a no deal Brexit.

As revealed by last Friday, his nomination to the most powerful economic portfolio in the EU will raise eyebrows in London.

Mr Hogan will now be central to talks on the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU.

As a smaller country, it is a significant coup for Ireland to secure the position.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Commissioner Hogan will of course work for Europe as a whole, but it is a definite advantage to have an Irish person in charge of this crucial brief over the next five years.

“He will take the lead on the EU’s post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, as well as Mercosur and the EU’s trading relations with India, the US and China.”

Tanaiste Simon Coveney described Mr Hogan as "a very tough negotiator".

"He understands Ireland obviously very, very well and understands rural Ireland and agriculture very, very well. And has now an awful lot of experience understanding the EU as a collective, because he’s been a commissioner for five years," Mr Coveney said.

"So on lots of levels this is a very positive story for Ireland, for the EU, for agriculture. That being said, he will have to, effectively, do the bidding of the EU.

"But certainly understanding Irish concerns intimately will allow him to do it in a way that from our perspective will be helpful. On finalising trade agreements on Mercosur, or future trade agreements with the UK, having somebody at the helm who understands the Irish vulnerabilities and concerns can only be a good thing," he added.

European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen said that Mr Hogan "is known as a hard and a fair negotiator."

He will join forces with former Brexit deputy negotiator Sabine Weyand, who was in June appointed director general of the commission's trade directorate.

Speaking on RTÉ’s ‘Today With Sean O’Rourke’, Mr Hogan stood over publicly criticisms he recently made of the British Prime Minister.

But he said he looks forward to meeting him once a Brexit deal is secured.

The ex-Carlow/Kilkenny TD said it was incumbent on Mr Johnson to work towards a deal because he has “narrowed his political options”.

Mr Hogan said the massive gulf between the EU and UK should close in the coming weeks but whether any deal will get through the House of Commons “remains to be seen”.

If a deal isn’t achieved, Mr Hogan said it will be “rather ironic” that the same issues around citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and the Irish border will still have to be dealt with.

“It’s wishful thinking that these issues are going to go away. They are not. There’s no getting away from that,” he said.

In relation to US President Donald Trump, the Commissioner said he had taking a “reckless” attitude to trade.

He promised to engage in “a bit of ground hurling” with the White House.

“The EU has forged many new trade deals around the world, while he has remained protectionist,” Mr Hogan said.

“We are going to do everything we possible can to make Mr Trump see the error of his ways.”

Online Editors

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