Phil Hogan: Ireland must build new alliances in post-Brexit EU

Brexit has reduced the government’s “political strength” in Europe and will force the country to forge new alliances, Ireland’s EU commissioner has said.

“This is going to create some additional difficulties for Ireland, in a political sense, around the table of the European Council and various ministries,” said Phil Hogan, the EU’s agriculture chief.

Ireland has traditionally relied on the UK to help fight its corner in Europe, particularly on tax, banking and single market rules.

“We are in a new situation and we have to develop new linkages and develop new networks now, in order to deal with the deficit in political strength that we had by working closely with the United Kingdom,” he told the Irish Examiner yesterday.

Ireland will have to rely increasingly on alliances with the Netherlands and Denmark, but may have to look further east as Brexit rewrites the EU’s balance of power.

The more countries on Ireland’s side the better, as EU rules require not only a majority of member states but a majority of the EU’s population to pass.

“Ireland has always had a very strong relationship with the northern European countries and with France in relation to agriculture, and I think that that those connections will continue,” Mr Hogan said.

He was speaking to the Irish Examiner from Slovakia, which took over the EU’s rotating six-month presidency yesterday, a week after the UK referendum result.

One week on, Britain has still not said when — or whether — it will officially notify its EU partners of its intention to leave, which it must do under Article 50 of the EU treaty.

Mr Hogan said the delay was “not helpful” and was prolonging “uncertainty and instability”.

“The fact that there is a reluctance on the part of the British government to trigger a negotiation to give effect to the outcome of the referendum is not helpful from the point of view of all the other 27 EU member states,” Mr Hogan said.

“The sooner we get the Article 50 mechanism triggered, the sooner we will have certainty and stability restored, and then financial markets and investment opportunities will begin to assert themselves again,” he said.

Infighting in Britain’s ruling Conservative party and opposition Labour is fuelling speculation of a general election or a referendum rerun.

“These are all fluid political issues in the European context,” Mr Hogan said.

“We are waiting for the UK government to decide when they will trigger the Article 50 mechanism to allow negotiations to commence with the EU, and and there is no sign of it happening soon.”

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has barred EU commissioners and officials from negotiating with their UK counterparts until Britain files EU divorce papers.

“There’s going to be no negotiation without notification, and that’s the edict that has been agreed by the Commission,” Mr Hogan said.

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