Ireland’s Phil Hogan resigned as the EU’s Trade Commissioner on Wednesday over allegations that he breached Covid-19 guidelines during a recent 20-day trip to his home country.
Hogan attended a golf dinner that caused outrage in Ireland and led to the resignation of an Irish minister.
His departure from the EU’s executive is a credibility blow for the team led by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The Commission still has a huge job on its hands to push through its €750 billion recovery fund for EU economies damaged by the coronavirus crisis and also faces tough ongoing trade talks with the United States.
Hogan said in a statement: “This evening I have tendered my resignation as EU Trade Commissioner to the President of the EU Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen.
“It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an EU Commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead.
“I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland – the country that I have been so proud to represent as a public servant for most of my adult life – caused such concern, unease and upset.
“I have always tried to comply with all relevant COVID-19 Regulations in Ireland and had understood that I had met with all relevant public health Guidelines, particularly following confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test.
“I reiterate my heartfelt apology to the Irish people for the mistakes I made during my visit.
“The Irish people have made incredible efforts to contain the coronavirus, and the European Commission will continue to support you, and all EU Member States, in defeating this terrible pandemic.
“Let me say from the heart that I fully appreciate and recognise the challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to our society and the global economy.
“As European Trade Commissioner, I have been at the frontline of the European Union’s response to the crisis.
“I recognise and appreciate the devastating impact of Covid-19 on individuals and families, and I fully understand their sense of hurt and anger when they feel that those in public service do not meet the standards expected of them.
“It is important to state that I did not break any law. As a public representative I should have been more rigorous in my adherence to the Covid regulations …”