Phil Hogan says Boris Johnson ‘out of the loop’ on Brexit talks

Ireland’s EU Commissioner says the British foreign secretary has been ‘acting strangely’

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson recently published his personal blueprint for Brexit. Photograph: Arno Mikkor /AP

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson recently published his personal blueprint for Brexit. Photograph: Arno Mikkor /AP

 

Boris Johnson has been “behaving strangely” since he published his personal blueprint for Brexit and is clearly “out of the loop” in relation to withdrawal negotiations, according to European Union commissioner Phil Hogan.

The former Minister for the Environment, and current European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said on Wednesday that the British foreign secretary was obviously not involved in the exit talks with the EU as he has made statements “completely at odds” with his government’s own position.

Mr Hogan also said Mr Johnson appeared a “diminished figure” in the Westminster cabinet, in a potential sign of the reaction in the EU to his explosive intervention on Brexit.

The Irish commissioner told the London Evening Standard: “Clearly, he is not directly involved in the negotiations on behalf of the British Government with the EU. He certainly has made very strange statements that are completely contradictory, and completely at odds with his own Government’s position as well as the possibility of being reasonable with the EU in finalising a deal.

“So it strikes me that he is completely out of the loop in relation to the type of concrete proposals that are required and that are being considered by the UK Government. Mr Johnson is behaving and acting and speaking strangely. It’s clear that his reputation is not good and he is a diminished figure in the Government.”

Mr Hogan said he was surprised Mr Johnson did not mention the Irish border in his document.

“It’s amazing that the UK’s foreign secretary can publish a 4,000-word article about the UK’s Brexit future and not mention the Irish border,” said Mr Hogan. “You’d think that the foreign secretary would have ideas about how to manage the UK’s main land border with the European Union, but obviously not. So if Ms May is as vague on the three questions as Mr Johnson was in her speech in Florence then the signs will not be good.”

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said: ‘It’s amazing that the UK’s foreign secretary can publish a 4,000-word article about the UK’s Brexit future and not mention the Irish border.’ File photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters
European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said: ‘It’s amazing that the UK’s foreign secretary can publish a 4,000-word article about the UK’s Brexit future and not mention the Irish border.’ File photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The threat to Theresa May of Mr Johnson’s potentially damaging resignation from the Cabinet appears to have receded with agreement reportedly reached on the thrust of the British prime minister’s crunch Brexit speech in Florence on Friday.

The British foreign secretary has backed away from his previous insistence that the UK should cease payments to the EU after the date of Brexit in 2019, accepting that Britain should “pay our dues” during any transition period, as well as meeting financial demands “where our lawyers say we are on the hook for stuff”.

Mr Johnson has sought to downplay the significance of his 4,000-word personal Brexit blueprint, which has overshadowed preparations for Ms May’s speech and sparked speculation that he might be preparing to walk out of the cabinet.

– PA