Boris-bashing Brexit-hating Irish MEP Hogan to take charge of EU's Brexit negotiations

URSULA VON DER LEYEN has hired Ireland’s Brexit-hating, Boris-bashing Phil Hogan to take charge of future Brexit negotiations - a sign that she will remain super-tough on Britain’s decision to quit the European Union.

Mr Hogan will become the bloc’s trade boss in November and be tasked with negotiating large chunks of Britain’s future ties with Brussels. The 6ft 3ins political heavyweight has repeatedly flouted the guidelines for European Commissioners to stay out of national politics and stick to representing the EU as a whole. He was given the green light from Jean-Claude Juncker to travel to Britain and actively campaign against Brexit. The 59-year-old Fine Gael MEP has been adamant Brussels will "not buckle" under any pressure from Mr Johnson over backstop issues. Ms von der Leyen's appointment has sent out a clear signal any future Brexit negotiations are going to remain extremely tough and intransigent.

But she says she has tasked Mr Hogan with striking a “very good free trade agreement” with Britain after Brexit.

She told reporters: “I know Phil Hogan as an excellent, very fair negotiator and he has handled the agriculture portfolio in a brilliant way and this is what I expect of him as a trade commissioner.

“He will be very fair but determined negotiator, and where our friends from the UK are concerned, it is very important to have a very good free trade agreement – I think it will determine the good relations we want to have in the future.

“We are still in a difficult process, with Brexit we never wanted it but we respect the decisions that are taken by our British friends.

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar celebrates as Irishman appointment EU's trade boss (Image: GETTY)

“Brexit, should it happen, is not the end of something but the beginning of our future relationship.”

During his time as agriculture commissioner, Mr Hogan was steadfast in his support for the controversial Irish backstop.

Insiders claim that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, he will demand that the Irish border question is resolved before real trade talks can begin.

His support for the backstop will help him garner the votes he needs to have his nomination accepted by MEPs in the European Parliament.

He will be grilled in the coming weeks by members of its trade committee, they will also be keen to put pressure on him to significantly change the current Mercosur with South American states.

Mr Hogan said: “I am very much looking forward to starting in this exciting and challenging portfolio and to supporting president-elect von der Leyen in her pursuit of a ‘strong, open and fair trade agenda’, through which Europe’s role as a global leader can be strengthened.”

Mr Hogan will be joined by Michel Barnier’s former deputy negotiator, Sabine Weyand, who is now the trade departments director-general.

Minutes after the announcement, the Irish prime minister said: “Phil Hogan’s appointment as EU trade commissioner is a very positive development for Ireland. We sought a major economic brief in the new European Commission, and I am very satisfied that we have secured it.

Ursula von der leyen Commission

Ursula von der Leyen's team of European Commissioners (Image: EXPRESS)

“He will 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 trading relations with India, US and China.

“Phil did an excellent job in the agriculture and rural develop brief. He is widely respected in Brussels and across the EU as a skilled negotiator and someone who builds alliances. He has proven vociferous on Brexit and I am sure that this will continue in his new role.”

Mr Hogan has previously heavily criticised Brexit and the push for a “global Britain”, which has was driven by “stubborn facts that over-shadow a rosy picture”.

“Global Britain will mean for the United Kingdom a return to medium-sized nation status,” he said.

“Yes it will regain the sovereignty to seek and strike agreements where it wants but with reduced bargaining power, reduced security of its markets and supply chains, and a friction and cost added to each trade shipment to the EU, its biggest trade partner.”

He added: “Stepping into Global Britain is stepping into a difficult world. And there will be a huge gap between hope and experience.”