EU commissioner says ‘tide is going out’ on Brexit hardliners

Phil Hogan raises prospect of second referendum, claiming British are seeing through ‘lies’

EU comissioner Phil Hogan (pictured in Brussels on June 1st) said ‘there is still a real danger is that it will be the Rees-Mogg mutineers who will triumph’. Photograph: Reuters/Yves Herman

EU comissioner Phil Hogan (pictured in Brussels on June 1st) said ‘there is still a real danger is that it will be the Rees-Mogg mutineers who will triumph’. Photograph: Reuters/Yves Herman

 

European Union commissioner Phil Hogan has said the “tide is going out on the high priests of Brexit” as he raised the prospect of second referendum on whether the UK should exit the EU.

Mr Hogan said British public opinion was turning against Brexit and the British public was starting to see through the “deception and lies” of pro-Brexit politicians.

Mr Hogan cited polls showing the Remain side were ahead compared to last year.

“There is also the unmistakable sense that the mood is changing in the UK. Public opinion is starting to move, and all recent polling shows the ‘Remain’ side firmly ahead. This is an important change, because well into 2017, the polls showed a majority still in favour of Brexit,” he said.

Speaking at a conference on Brexit organised by the Irish Road Haulage Association at Rosslare Port on Monday, Mr Hogan hit out at pro-Brexit politicians Michael Gove and Nigel Farage for misleading the British public.

In April, Mr Hogan criticised British prime minister Theresa May’s plan for a “global Britain”, warning there were “stubborn facts that over-shadow a rosy picture”.

“The tide is finally starting to go out on the high priests of Brexit, and not before time. Arch-Brexiteers like Nigel Farage and Michael Gove are disowning their pre-referendum promises of a land of milk and honey, and a sense of panic is setting in among them that the British public is finally seeing through their deception and lies,” he said.

Mr Hogan, who is the EU’s agriculture chief, said the British government lacked a concrete plan and its cabinet was failing to even agree with itself on a “workable solution” to issues like customs.

“The latest episodes of the Brexit reality show have shown us prime minister May battling with the mutineers, and the mutineers battling with each other. This means that, less than two weeks out from a key meeting of EU leaders which is supposed to settle this very question, we are no closer to the UK converging around a real, workable solution,” he said.

“One group prefers a cyber border. Another group prefers new-look documentation and inspection procedures. Both groups seem to agree on only one thing - that neither of the two approaches will work,” he said.

He said calls were growing for some form of “people’s referendum” on the final Brexit deal, if there was one.

“Mrs May’s dilemma is that she has to disappoint one group or the other within her own party. She is trying to find a middle way - agreements on border management and future trade that will be acceptable to all. There are no signs that such a middle way exists,” he said.

“She will have to choose. And there is still a real danger is that it will be the Rees-Mogg mutineers who will triumph,” he said,

Mr Hogan said British business was “raising its voice in exasperation at the government’s lack of a plan.”

“Throughout the UK, including in Northern Ireland, businesses are making contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit, openly speaking about the damage that will be done to jobs and growth,” he said.

He described an “ebullient” House of Lords as assuming the role of the grown-up in the room, given the Conservative government’s failure take leadership.