EU gets new trade commissioner

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Phil Hogan has previously criticised the "tough guy approach" of UK Brexiters

Irishman Phil Hogan has been named as the EU’s new trade commissioner.

His appointment was announced at a press conference by the incoming head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

It means he will be the EU’s chief trade negotiator if and when free trade negotiations commence between the EU and the UK after Brexit.

Mr Hogan has been the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development since November 2014.

Earlier this year, he warned plans published by the UK government for tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit were an attempt “to break EU unity” over the Irish border issue.

The 59-year-old is moving from one key Brexit-related post to another, a sign that the EU will continue to prioritise the issue of the Irish border if and when any future free trade negotiations get under way.

Ms von der Leyen, who is due to take office on 1 November, described Mr Hogan as a “hard and fair negotiator.”

The Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said ”he was very satisfied that the Republic of Ireland had secured the position.”

He described it as a “definite advantage” to hold the brief over the next five years.

“He is widely respected in Brussels and across the EU as a skilled negotiator and someone who builds alliances.

“He has proven to be vociferous on Brexit, and I am sure that this will continue in his new role,” Mr Varadkar said.

Huge gap
Mr Hogan, a native of Kilkenny, is also a former Irish environment minister for Fine Gael.

He has previously warned the UK that it faces “a huge gap between hope and experience” when it begins operating its own trade policy.

The new commission as a whole will be approved or rejected by a full plenary session of the parliament in October. It is due to take office on 1 November.

If approved by the European Parliament, Mrs von der Leyen’s executive team will be the most diverse in EU history, consisting of 13 women and 14 men.

No UK MEP has been selected as Britain is due to leave the EU by 31 October.

 

Mercy Chukwudiebere