The European Commission has named an outspoken critic of Brexit and Boris Johnson as its new trade chief in a move which is likely to increase tensions between Brussels and London.
Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European Commission, today announced her 27-strong team of commissioners who will take office from November 1.
Irishman Phil Hogan, who is currently in charge of agriculture, will take up the post of trade commissioner which means he will lead post-Brexit talks between the bloc and Britain.
But his appointment is likely to cause controversy because he has previously described Mr Johnson as an ‘unelected prime minister’ who is nothing like his political hero Winston Churchill.
He also memorably branded Mr Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg the ‘Three Stooges’ last year, saying: ‘Don’t listen to the Three Stooges, they don’t know the first thing about it.’
Today he renewed his attack as he accused the government of ‘wishful thinking’ over Britain’s departure from the EU.
The European Commission has named outspoken critic of Brexit – and Boris Johnson – ‘Big Phil’ Hogan as its new trade chief in a move which is likely to increase tensions between Brussels and London
Mr Hogan is a vocal critic of Brexit and has previously attacked Boris Johnson, pictured at a London school this afternoon
Mr Hogan will have a lot on his plate when he takes up the job – assuming his appointment is rubberstamped by the European Parliament – because he will have to deal with Brexit as well as a potential trade war with the US.
Phil Hogan and his acid-tongued attacks on Brexit and Boris Johnson
The EU’s next trade commissioner has been an outspoken critic of the PM and Brexit:
On Boris Johnson: ‘Prime Minister Johnson’s hero is Winston Churchill and he seems to view himself as a modern day Churchill. However, in the event of a No Deal Brexit, the UK government’s only Churchillian legacy will be – ‘never have so few done so much damage to so many’.’
On Mr Johnson being an ‘unelected PM’: ‘We should recall that the backstop was agreed by a prime minister who was democratically elected,’ he said, referring to Theresa May.
On Theresa May – and Johnson, Farage and Rees-Mogg, the ‘three stooges’:
‘For an agreement to take place, the issue needs to be, as Michel Barnier said, ‘de-dramatised’. The invisible border is essential for peace – don’t listen to the Three Stooges [Johnson, Farage, Rees-Mogg], they don’t know the first thing about it.’ – September 2018, speaking as pressure mounted on Theresa May’s government over the withdrawal agreement.
On No Deal: ‘Pain for everyone, but the worst pain will be felt by the people of the UK.’
On Brexit realism: ‘The penny is finally dropping.’
He has not held back in his public comments on Brexit and today he said even if the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion it could take another six to eight months before member states agree a mandate to allow him to start trade talks.
Such a delay would be immensely frustrating to Downing Street who will undoubtedly want to agree the terms of a future trading relationship as quickly as possible.
He also stressed that a No Deal Brexit would increase the length of such a delay because the EU will not talk trade until three divorce issues are settled: citizens rights, the £39 billion Brexit bill and the Irish border.
‘There are a lot of people in the United Kingdom who have not come to terms that if there is a crash out of the European Union, we still have to deal with the same issues,’ he said.
‘There is a wishful thinking that these are going to go away, they’re not.
‘They are going to be centrally involved in phase two of the negotiations if phase one doesn’t complete and there is no getting away from that.’
Mr Hogan sparked a war of words in August this year after he was quoted as saying that Mr Johnson viewed himself as a ‘modern-day Churchill’ but ‘in the event of a No Deal Brexit, the UK government’s only Churchillian legacy will be: never have so few done so much damage to so many’.
The Irish politician also said Mr Johnson’s claim that the backstop is anti-democratic ‘seems strange’ as he is ‘an unelected prime minister’.
A UK government source hit back at the time and said: ‘Deliberate personal attacks like this are just the kind of negotiation ploys that led to the failure to secure a deal last time.
‘The commission should stop playing these kind of games and instead work towards changes that could make a deal possible.’
The Irish Fine Gael politician (pictured right at the Punchestown Festival, County Kildare, Ireland) is known to the electorate as Big Phil for his fearsome reputation as a political bruiser
Jean-Claude Juncker is said jokingly referred to him at times as ‘Farmer Phil’. (Hogan, left, and Sean Atkinson, chief executive officer of SIRO)
Irish premier Leo Varadkar congratulated Mr Hogan, describing his appointment as a ‘very positive development’ for Ireland.
The Taoiseach said: ‘Ireland sought a major economic brief in the new European Commission, and I am very satisfied that we have secured it.
‘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.
‘Phil did an excellent job in the Agriculture and Rural Development brief. 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.
‘We look forward to working closely with the new Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, who has already shown a deep understanding of the negative impact Brexit could have on Ireland and across the EU.’