And Ray Bassett – who believes Dublin in the past had “bet on Remain and lost” – said Ireland’s troubles were summed up by the fiasco over Phil Hogan’s forced resignation as EU trade commissioner, agreeing with Mr Varadkar’s assessment it was now extremely unlikely the country would retain the influential portfolio once his successor is appointed. UK negotiator David Frost and EU counterpart Michel Barnier are due to meet in London this week, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab calling it a “moment of reckoning.”
Mr Frost yesterday warned Brussels the UK was not afraid to walk away if an agreement which includes commitments to key issues including fishing rights and state aid cannot be struck, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly turning the screw by threatening to tear up sections of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to the Northern Ireland protocol.
Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, told Express.co.uk there was no doubt Mr Varadkar, Mr Martin and others would be monitoring the situation closely and with no small degree of anxiety.
He said: “There must be extreme nervousness in Government circles in Dublin.
Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin will be watching events in London nervously, said Ray Bassett
Boris Johnson is threatening to pull the plug on a key aspect of the Withdrawal Agreement
They bet heavily on the Remainers in London and have lost the bet
“They bet heavily on the Remainers in London and have lost the bet.
“I think nobody can be in any doubt but that the demands Barnier is making on fisheries and on the EU having control of the EU State aids in Britain are undeliverable.
“The prospects do not look good for Ireland in 2021.”
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Phil Hogan speaks to Ursula von der Leyen last year
Mr Hogan was forced to quit after details emerged of a social function at a golf club in the west of Ireland which was attended by roughly 80 people, in breach of coronavirus restrictions banning indoor gatherings of more than six, in a controversy rapidly dubbed “golfgate”.
The Fine Gael politician initially offered an apology but his position became untenable after both Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar suggested he should “consider his position” – a move on their part which Mr Bassett believes was a mistake.
Since then, Mairead McGuinness, who has served as First Vice-President of the European Parliament since 2017, and Andrew McDowell, currently vice-president of the European Investment Bank, have been put forward by Ireland as their two nominations, with Foreign Minister Simon Coveney declining to put his name forward.
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Micheal Martin said Phil Hogan should “consider his position”, piling the pressure on
Leo Varadkar stood down as Taoiseach in June
During a meeting conducted via Zoom on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar himself told senior party members he would not be surprised if Ireland was not offered the role previously held by Mr Hogan.
Mr Bassett agreed, saying: “It is now pretty clear that Ireland will lose the Trade Commissioner post.
“This is reflected in the two candidates put forward or consideration, neither of whom have ever held a Ministerial position inside Government.
Mairead McGuinness is expected to get the nod, said Mr Bassett
“Clearly Coveney pulled out when the Irish Government was told informally that they had lost Trade.”
Mr Bassett, who published his new book, Ireland and the EU Post Brexit last month, added: “I believe it is now widely accepted in Dublin that the Irish Government made a serious error in attacking Hogan.
“They did not think the whole thing through or there may have been a hidden motivation in removing Hogan.
“The actions of the Irish Government on this occasion defy logic.
Dominic Raab has called this week “a moment of reckoning”
“It follows their failure to assist David Cameron during his renegotiation attempt and destroying Theresa May with the infamous Backstop.”
As for Mr Hogan’s replacement, Mr Bassett said: “It looks like Mairead McGuinness will be the new Commissioner and will get, at best, a middle ranking post in the Commission.
“McGuinness was one of the senior MEPs that managed to block the publication of MEP’s expenses so her appointment would not be without controversy.
“She has also called for Ireland to relax its neutrality rules, again a fairly controversial suggestion.”