The European Commission is facing up to the difficult task of replacing former Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan in the key role of Trade Commissioner.
Mr Hogan, Ireland’s EU Commissioner, resigned last week amid controversy over a visit to a golf dinner in Ireland that breached COVID-19 guidelines.
“It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an EU Commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead,” he said.
Mr Hogan was seen in Brussels and beyond as doing a good job at a critical time, particularly in negotiations with the US as the Airbus and Boeing saga rumbles on. The Financial Times reported that he and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer recently announced the first joint tariff reduction for two decades, covering a handful of products that EU officials predicted could have ‘trickle down’ benefits in higher value policy areas, including aerospace.
There are fears on both sides of the Atlantic that Mr Hogan’s departure could have a negative impact on EU-US relations.
His departure, after less than a year, also comes as the EU engages in ongoing negotiations with China and, of course, the Brexit talks.
The FT also reported that Brussels officials hoped Mr Hogan would use his strong agricultural ties to persuade the European farm sector to support the South American Mercosur that was negotiated last year, but still needs to be ratified.
He now needs to be replaced, both as Ireland’s EU Commissioner and in the vital Trade Commissioner role in Brussels – a difficult task.