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New EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan indicates 'movement' on Brexit negotiations

Ireland's European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, has been appointed as the new EU trade commissioner

IRELAND'S EU commissioner Phil Hogan has signalled that "movement" is happening on both sides of the Brexit negotiations following his nomination as the European Union's next trade negotiator.

Mr Hogan's new appointment was announced yesterday and will involve him playing a central role in overseeing future trade talks with the UK after Brexit.

Speaking to RTÉ news, he described Monday's meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson in Dublin as "very good" and said that the British prime minister "has moved away from his position…where he's now prepared to look at divergence of certain rules and regulations on the island of Ireland vis-a-vis the United Kingdom".

"So I think there's movement happening on both sides. Let's see over the next four weeks how we can advance those intensive negotiations to reach an agreement," he said.

And he said that if there was a return to the Northern Ireland-only backstop then any constitutional issues in terms of the north's place within the United Kingdom that arose could be "improved upon".

He added the North-South dimension of the Good Friday Agreement could also be used to provide further "oversight" of how a Northern Ireland-only backstop operates.

Mr Hogan's appointment to the chief post was made public at a press conference by the incoming head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

He has been the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development since November 2014.

Mr Hogan said the job was one of the most important economic portfolios in the College of Commissioners and said his nomination comes at a "very important time for the European Union and for Ireland".

"International trade is the lifeline of the EU economy and its economic importance is illustrated by the fact that one in every seven jobs in the EU is supported by the export of goods and services," he said.

"Trade is a political priority for the European Commission and one with which I have been very closely involved during my term as Commissioner for Agriculture."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar congratulated Mr Hogan, describing his appointment as a "very positive development" for Ireland.

"Ireland sought a major economic brief in the new European Commission, and I am very satisfied that we have secured it," Mr Varadkar said.

"Commissioner Hogan will of course work for Europe as a whole, but it is a definite advantage to have an Irish person in charge of this crucial brief over the next five years.

"He will take the lead on the EU's post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, as well as Mercosur and the EU's trading relations with India, the US and China.

"Phil did an excellent job in the Agriculture and Rural Development brief. He is widely respected in Brussels and across the EU as a skilled negotiator and someone who builds alliances.

"He has proven to be vociferous on Brexit, and I am sure that this will continue in his new role".

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