EU commissioner tells Brexiteers 'shut up and let PM get on with her work'

Ireland's EU commissioner Phil Hogan Photo: Arno Mikkor (EU2017EE)

Ireland's EU commissioner has blasted Britain's "absurdist politics" and told leading Hard Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to "shut up and let Prime Minister May get on with her work".

Phil Hogan, the European commissioner for agriculture and rural development, said that Britain was 'trapped in a recurring cycle of silly behaviour' over Brexit and was at risk of leaving the bloc without a trade agreement.

He also warned that here would be no Brexit deal next March if the prime minister refused to budge on her Chequers proposals, saying: "If the UK attitude is Chequers and only Chequers, there will be no agreement before March next year on the future trade relationship.'

He told an audience at the Kennedy Summer School in County Wexford: "More than two years after the referendum, the UK remains in a pickle.

"And by pickle, I mean that the UK is trapped in a recurring cycle of silly behaviour.

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"Several times prime minister May has courageously dragged the UK factions into some sort of line of battle and turned it to face Brussels. Because, after all, it is with Brussels that the UK's exit deal must be done.

'But the factions in her own party will have none of it. Mr Johnson and Mr Rees Mogg say, in effect, 'prime minister, you must negotiate Brexit with us'."

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The commissioner added: "This is leading to absurdist politics. Michel Barnier, on behalf of the EU, has repeatedly said that the UK cannot cherry-pick parts of the internal market by wanting a market for goods but not services, and that the UK cannot split the EU's four freedoms. This is the clear and unequivocal message of the EU27.

'So what is the reaction of Mr Johnson and Mr Rees Mogg? It is certainly not to shut up and let prime minister May get on with her work.

"But what they also don't do, because constructive criticism is not a concept they recognise, is offer some alternative suggestions. They see their task as pouring negativism on all suggestions apart from a clean break from the dreaded bureaucrats of Brussels. So we are stuck – at least publicly – where we were before the summer."

Hogan is one of the most outspoken critics of Brexiteers among the Commission and is seen by some as an outrider for wider views, perhaps because of Ireland's closeness to the UK.

Reacting to Hogan's comments on the Chequers plan, Labour MP Virendra Sharma MP, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said they were "another knife plunged into the heart of the prime minister's Chequers proposals".

He said: "When will this government give up on their unpopular plan? No-one voted for a messy half-way house that neither takes us out of the EU completely, nor protects us from the economic disaster that is Brexit.

"The only surprise here is that the government continues to make the same mistake over and over. It shows a lack of professionalism at the very centre of government.

"It's time to open up the Brexit process to the people of this country, whose voices have been buried for over two years. That can only be done through a people's vote with the option to stay and fight for our place within the EU."

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