DUBLIN: The European Union will seek to convince US President Donald Trump to see “the error of his ways” and abandon some of his “reckless” trade policies, the EU executive’s incoming trade commissioner, Phil Hogan, said on Tuesday.
The new head of the executive European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, named a 27-strong team of commissioners on Tuesday who will take office on Nov 1, assuming they secure approval from the European Parliament.
Hogan, an Irishman currently in charge of agriculture at the Commission, will take up the post of trade commissioner, facing a battle to improve trade ties with the United States and establishing future economic relations with Britain after Brexit.
“Mr Trump certainly has indicated his clear preference for trade wars rather than trade agreements. If he keeps up this particular dynamic of protectionism, I expect that the European Union will continue to forge deals around the world,” Hogan told Irish national broadcaster RTE.
“But obviously we are going to do everything we possibly can to get Mr Trump to see the error of his ways and hopefully that he will be able to abandon some of the reckless behaviour that we have seen from him in relation to his relationship with China and describing the European Union as a security risk.”
Hogan has not held back in his public criticism of Britain’s approach to Brexit in the last three years.
He has accused pro-Brexit politicians of lying, Britain’s parliament of absurdist politics and described Brexit as a “utopia” that existed only in the pages of the ruling Conservative Party’s election manifesto.
He said on Tuesday that while Britain may want to wrap up a quick trade deal, it would take six to eight months before EU member states could present him with a mandate to start those talks if a withdrawal agreement is struck this year.
But a no-deal Brexit would create an even further delay, Hogan said, repeating the EU’s position that the main issues in the divorce proceedings – citizens rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border – would still need to be agreed.
“There are a lot of people in the United Kingdom who have not come to terms (with the fact) that if there is a crash-out from the European Union, we still have to deal with the same issues,” he said.
“There is a wishful thinking that these are going to go away, they’re not. They are going to be centrally involved in phase two of the negotiations if phase one doesn’t complete and there is no getting away from that.”
Von der Leyen, a former German defence minister and close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, praised Hogan as “an excellent, fair and determined negotiator”.
In Dublin, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Hogan’s was a “very positive development for Ireland” and that it was a definite advantage to have an Irish person in charge of the trade brief for the next five years.