Phil Hogan warns of UK’s ‘Three Stooges’ who know nothing about the NI border

Ireland’s EU Commissioner to tell summer school people should not listen to Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage or Jacob Rees-Mogg

The requirements of an invisible Border on the island of Ireland after Brexit must be "de-dramatised", Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan will say in a speech tomorrow clearly targeted at the unionists.

Dialling down the rhetoric — presumably about the supposed constitutional implication of Border controls on the Irish Sea — will allow the “incontrovertible” reality to become clear that such a border will be “good for the UK, good for Northern Ireland, good for Ireland, and good for the EU”, he will insist, arguing that it is not up to the EU to changes its rules to accommodate such an eventuality.

"We will not damage the EU's great achievement of the internal market," Mr Hogan will say, "just to save the UK from the consequences of its own silliness. . . There will be no cherry picking. The four freedoms will not be separated." Speaking on Friday to the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford, Mr Hogan will also launch a broadside against what he describes as the Trump assault on the world's multilateral trading system, and insist that Europe must "step up to the plate" to lead its defence.

On preserving the frictionless Border in Ireland he will say: “The first, and most obvious point, is that it can be achieved if both sides want it. The EU says it wants it and has made a proposal. The UK says it wants it but does not like parts of the EU proposal.


‘Three Stooges’

“The second point is that 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.

In trade terms, he will say maintaining the invisible border will be good for the UK, good for Northern Ireland, good for Ireland, and good for the EU.

“Dialling down the rhetoric would allow these incontrovertible facts to come to the fore. Let’s do so in the full confidence that administrative matters can be resolved. Bureaucrats do it all the time.”

With Britain’s red lines increasingly making the option of a Canada-style free trade agreement the only viable option for the UK-EU future relationship, the commissioner warns that would necessarily mean “some form of backstop border arrangement”, for the North.

But, in truth, he warns, “If the UK attitude is Chequers and only Chequers, there will be no agreement before March next year on the future trade relationship.”

Mr Hogan will also strongly defend the international trading system against the onslaught of the Trump administration, suggesting that to understand the president’s short-termist psychology we have to understand where he is coming from.

“President Trump is a businessman. Yes, that’s true but he is not a producer, he is a trader. He is not a farmer, he’s a cattle dealer,” the commissioner will say. “There are differences. Producers and farmers are for the long-term. They don’t bet the business because, if they go under, it is forever.

“Dealers and traders are for the short-term. They can go for bigger bets – if they go under, all they need to start again is enough money from a different source to buy a few head of cattle.”

He warned that “the EU does not welcome the America First bully”.

“It will deal with him where it can, but will always stand four-square against the idea that America can put its elbows on the table and dictate terms. . .”

He will say a rules-based multilateral approach ultimately aims to benefit all nations who participate in it.

“And because we in Europe have learned the hard way that working together is better than working against each other, we will be the last person standing in the fight to defend today’s international trading system. Have no fear of that.”

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times