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The Role of Ireland’s European Commissioner

26 August 2020

Phil Hogan’s resignation as the European Commissioner for Trade on 26 August 2020 led to much discussion around the potential damage to Irish influence on the Brexit negotiations due to the loss of the trade portfolio. While the Trade Commissioner will play a role in policing the EU-UK relationship in the years to come, including agreements related to Northern Ireland, Brexit negotiations are led on behalf of the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier.Mr Barnierreports directly to the Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. As Ireland’s representative of the European Commission, former Commissioner Hogan, while not directly involved in the negotiations, may have informally influenced proceedings. However, as all EU Commissioners take a vow of independence under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, no Commissioner should argue on behalf of a Member State. Rather, this is a matter for national governments. As such, on the surface an Irish Trade Commissioner could not have affected the outcome of Brexit. The withdrawl of Britian from the EU will undoubtedly be disruptive for Ireland, as the UK is our main trading partner and closest neighbour.

Meanwhile, President von der Leyen has nominated former Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness MEP, to serve as European Commissioner for Financial Stability. This role will involve work on the creation of a single market for capital in the EU, and leading reform of the financial and banking industry aimed to strengthen stability and avoid repeats of past financial crises. In the context of Brexit, it is worth noting that some financial services may seek to relocate from London to EU financial hubs, including Dublin.

Mairead McGuinness is due to face a hearing in the European Parliament on 12 October 2020 as part of the confirmation process for her nomination.

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