Pressure intensifies on EU trade commissioner to quit

Pressure is mounting on the EU’s trade commissioner to resign.

Phil Hogan is a senior Irish politician with significant standing in Brussels who would be deeply involved in any deal with Britain after Brexit.

He has been urged to consider his position by the leaders of Ireland’s coalition Government, Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar, after attending a dinner at a hotel in the west of Ireland with more than 80 people present.

Police are investigating whether coronavirus regulations were broken in holding the Irish parliament’s golf society event two days after the Government announced it intended to curb the numbers permitted to gather together.

Coronavirus – Mon Aug 17, 2020
Coronavirus – Mon Aug 17, 2020

A resurgence in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks has led Ireland to backtrack on some of its measures reopening society after lockdown.

Mr Martin and his deputy Mr Varadkar have asked Mr Hogan to consider his position.

An Irish Government statement said: “They both believe the event should never have been held, that the commissioner’s apology came late and that he still needs to give a full account and explanation of his actions.”

Mr Hogan has apologised for attending the event.

It is EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen who would have to force his resignation.

The leader of Ireland’s opposition Labour Party, Alan Kelly, said: “It is incumbent on Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar to now inform the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen that they no longer have confidence in the Irish commissioner Phil Hogan and that she should ask for his resignation pursuant to Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union.”

1) I attended the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner on Wednesday on the clear understanding that the organisers and the hotel concerned had been assured [by the Irish Hotels’ Federation] that the arrangements put in place would be in compliance with the government’s guidelines.

— Phil Hogan (@PhilHoganEU) August 21, 2020

The article says a member of the commission shall resign if the president makes the request.

Mr Hogan is the EU’s former agriculture commissioner and oversaw significant reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Trade is a central issue in the EU’s efforts to build agreement with the UK to mitigate any ill-effects from Brexit.

The commissioner is a native of Kilkenny in the south east of the country and a former Irish environment minister for Fine Gael.