UK trapped by self-imposed contradiction on Brexit, says Hogan

EU commissioner to take aim at Theresa May’s ‘red lines’ opposing customs union

The United Kingdom is trying to invent a new kind of Border that will not work because it is trapped by the "self-imposed contradiction" of its Brexit position, the EU commissioner for agriculture, Phil Hogan, will tell the Seanad today.

“The UK has to face up to the fact that decision time is here,” Mr Hogan will say, echoing the warning of the European Council president, Donald Tusk, last week. “The EU must be satisfied the UK’s invention will work or it is the backstop. The deadline is set for June. No decision, no withdrawal treaty. No withdrawal treaty, no transition.”

Mr Hogan will also take aim at the unwavering commitment of the British prime minister, Theresa May, to her “red lines” opposing a customs union, hinting that “London-London” discussions, between Brexiteers and Remainers, “will show us how badly the UK wants what the prime minister has asked for”.

In Brussels much hope is being placed on the possibility that the House of Commons will overrule Ms May on the customs union.


Mr Hogan will also suggest that Ireland, while maintaining its neutrality, needs to think again about its attitude to European security. “For us, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, security questions may sometimes seem remote. But is this a moment for us to review our thinking on these wider, strategic questions?

“We have felt the strength and benefit of EU solidarity over the past couple of years. Imagine what it means to our fellow members in the Baltic region, for example, who border Russia and have large Russian-speaking populations. Imagine what it means to those member countries that are in the front line in dealing with immigration from the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

“As part of the EU we all share the union’s destiny. We who have felt, and are still feeling, the benefits of its solidarity should be ready to ask how we may better contribute to the solidarity offered to others. We value our neutral status but should not stand aloof because of it. We should also want to play our full part in the union’s security.”

Mr Hogan warns that Brexiteers appear to “want to carry on the civil war until there’s not a building left standing on the other side. Is this the sort of victory they seek? If so they don’t only endanger the UK’s economy but its society also.”

“The recent statement by [the Eurosceptic Conservative MP] Jacob Rees-Mogg in relation to Irish beef is a good example of a comment that is both unhelpful and irresponsible. But of course this is his stock in trade.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “If we were to apply the common external tariff on Irish beef, the Irish agricultural industry is in serious trouble. You’ve got to ask the EU: does it want to sacrifice the economy of Ireland on the altar of EU ideology? My guess is that the answer is no, and therefore we are in a very strong negotiating position.”

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times