Phil Hogan looks set to be nominated for EU Trade Commissioner

By Juno McEnroe
Political Correspondent

Phil Hogan looks set to be nominated in the coming days to take over the powerful role of EU Trade Commissioner.

Chairman of the European Parliament's trade committee Bernd Lange yesterday said there was an “80% chance” Mr Hogan - the current Agriculture Commissioner - would be nominated for the post.

An announcement on new commissioners is expected next week.

A spokesman for Mr Hogan told the Irish Examiner that it was hoped Mr Hogan would “secure a significant portfolio”.

The gift of the influential role of trade to an Irish commissioner is likely to trouble the British government and its Brexit negotiators - particularly if British ministers have to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU through Mr Hogan, who has been a vocal critic of Brexit and a staunch defender of the backstop.

Speaking in Brussels yesterday, Mr Lange said there was “little resistance” to Mr Hogan becoming the next trade commissioner.

“I would guess there is an 80% chance that it will be Hogan,” the trade group chair told Politico.

Commissioner nominations would have been made this week, but delays in Italy over its nomination as it decides on a new government stalled the process. Sources in Brussels say that President-elect Ursula von der Leyen is likely to make an announcement next week.

Nominees for commissioner roles must then be interviewed by committees. Mr Hogan worked on the recent Mercosur trade deal between the EU and South American countries and also worked closely with Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on a key EU deal with Japan.

Meanwhile, the political chaos in Westminster has increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit, the EU has warned.

A memo from the commission to EU institutions set out Brussels' assessment of the situation ahead of the October 31 deadline.

"The short time remaining and the political situation in the United Kingdom has increased the risk that the United Kingdom will withdraw on that date without an agreement," the document said.

Organisations "should not rely on the assumption that a third extension will be requested by the United Kingdom" and agreed by EU leaders ahead of October 31.

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