Ireland’s European Commissioner Phil Hogan says Brexit could take up to 10 years to happen, and criticises British prime minister Theresa May for hiding behind “clichés”.
However, there also needs to be a greater urgency in Dublin to reflect that once the British trigger Article 50, the centre of power and influence on Brexit will move irrevocably away from London to Brussels, he said.
“Ireland needs to get its facts together, to have its dossiers and arguments ready,” said Mr Hogan. “EU negotiating leader Michel Barnier has already said that once we get past March, things will kick on at a rapid rate. Ireland needs to be riding up with the leaders.”
Speaking at the annual Christmas lunch of the Association of European Journalists in Dublin, Mr Hogan said that six months on from the vote in June, it is “painfully obvious that there is still no clear vision on how to move forward from Brexit”.
“No plan that comes even close to offering a better or more appealing future. Whitehall merely continues to spew out mixed messages. David Davis has said the UK would consider the ‘Norway model’, which means making contributions to the EU budget in exchange for access to the single market,” the commissioner said.
Mr Hogan said this is in stark contrast to those favouring a ‘hard’ Brexit, such as Boris Johnson, who always seems to believe passionately in whatever he says at any given time.
“Meanwhile, Theresa May hides her views on Brexit behind a barricade of clichés,” Mr Hogan said pointedly.
“I suppose we can be somewhat reassured by the sensible noises coming from Chancellor Philip Hammond, who has called for moderation on immigration controls and wants to maintain access to the single market. However, his is often a lonely voice. All this means that there is likely to be a reckoning among the different forces in the Tory party once the roadmap is presented.”
He said the vote to leave the EU was a move by Britain — or England and Wales — who decided they had had enough of experts and “took their country back” from the European project.
Mr Hogan, who left government in 2014 to become commissioner, said Brexit is the defining political challenge for the coming years. On the threat of Brexit to the peace process he said: “Regrettably, the Northern Irish peace process and the existing border arrangements on the island of Ireland seem to get scant attention in London. Northern Ireland must NOT be a bargaining chip.”
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