Phil Hogan expects EU to give UK a Brexit extension if they request one

Phil Hogan expects EU to give UK a Brexit extension if they request one

Incoming EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan has predicted the EU will give Britain a Brexit extension next month if London requests it, claiming Britain may soon have a prime minister who will scrap Britain's plans to leave.

Mr Hogan made the claims as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and DUP leader Arlene Foster both dismissed British media reports of a sudden change in the DUP's hardline Brexit position just weeks out from the crucial October 31 Brexit D-day.

At an event in Kilkenny, Mr Hogan - whose new role means he will be crucial to the next stage of Brexit talks - said he believes the EU will give Britain an extension if it is sought next month.

He said deadlines "usually concentrate the mind" and predicted British prime minister Boris Johnson may ultimately back down and ask for an extension, which EU leaders are likely to give.

"I think that if they ask it in the context of an election, then the 27 other members will grant that extension," he said.

"But of course we have a bit to go yet because there is a possibility yet that Mr Johnson may wish to engage with the European Union and come forward with proposals to break this impasse.

We're waiting for proposals from the United Kingdom.

At a separate event in Dublin, Mr Hogan repeated the view, saying there is a possibility of the October 31 Brexit deadline being pushed back if Britain backs down on its demands.

And, indicating the reasons why an extension may be considered, he said Britain could soon have a prime minister who will revoke article 50 and scrap Brexit itself.

"You are pre-supposing that the United Kingdom are going out of the European Union. They may not.

"Mr Johnson has a big responsibility in the next four weeks.

"It could fall to somebody else on the fifth week and you could have a second referendum and this will be dependent on the mandate that whatever new government in the UK will get in November,” he said.

Mr Hogan's comments are likely to put fresh pressure on Britain and the EU to clarify what will happen before - and potentially in the days after - the EU summit on October 17 and 18 in Brussels.

Mr Hogan's comments came as both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and DUP leader Arlene Foster rejected reports in the British media the DUP may be prepared to accept some EU rules post-Brexit - effectively splitting Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain - to force a breakthrough.

In a tweet on Thursday night - less than an hour after the Times of London reported the claim - Ms Foster said: "The UK must leave as one nation. We are keen to see a sensible deal but not one that divides the internal market of the UK.

"We will not support any arrangements that create a barrier to east-west trade. Anonymous sources lead to nonsense stories."

Asked about the claims at Fine Gael's pre-Dáil think-in in Co Cork, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "I'm not aware of any change in position from the DUP, but the DUP can speak for themselves.

"As far as the Irish Government is concerned, our position hasn't changed.

"We believe the best solution is the withdrawal agreement including the backstop."

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