Phil Hogan urges Ireland to keep distance from UK on Brexit

‘Real risk’ Ireland’s relationship with Europe could be defined by relationship with Britain

This country's strategic interests in the Brexit negotiations could be seriously damaged by an excessive focus on the relationship with the UK, Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has warned.

In an opinion piece in today's Irish Times, Mr Hogan said Ireland's focus should be on developing a wholly different set of relationships with our EU partners

“There is a real risk that Ireland could allow our relationship with Europe to be defined by our relationship with the United Kingdom, which would be an enormous mistake in my view,” said the commissioner. “Instead we should have the confidence and direction to recognise that post-Brexit Ireland will need to have in place a wholly different set of relationships with our EU partners – relationships which we will forge, advocate, defend and address directly and out of the shadow of our nearest neighbour.”

Mr Hogan said such an approach to managing the new realities for Ireland in a post-Brexit Europe needed to inform and direct engagement with all our EU neighbours, including the UK.


“We need to ensure that we have the relationships established and maintained to facilitate a clear and direct understanding of Ireland’s specific needs and requirements across all EU member states,” he said.

While it was the UK that was leaving, Mr Hogan said, the key point was that it was the EU 27 who would decide the exit conditions and those that would apply afterwards.

Once the prime minister, Theresa May, triggered article 50, “a process would commence that will move the centre of power and influence on Brexit away from London and firmly plant it in Brussels,” he said.

Argue strongly

"The UK can be expected to argue strongly, if regrettably at times incoherently, for its own interests in a European Union which it has shunned.

"It would be a fundamental error on our part to place an excessive reliance on our bilateral relationship with the UK as the best means of ensuring that Ireland's strategic interests are best protected in the Brexit discussions," he added.

The commissioner said that while nobody in Ireland desired Brexit, it was now a reality that we had to face.

“Unwittingly Brexit may be presenting Ireland with the chance to seize the next phase in our development and maturity as a sovereign state. It will force us to forge relations and shape our destiny within the EU without the presence of our nearest and strongest ally since 1973.

“Given the stakes involved, we need to seize that challenge now,” Mr Hogan said. “In doing so, we have the opportunity to redefine and reassert Ireland’s position as both committed Europeans and good next-door neighbours.”

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times