One of the main reasons that the EU gave the UK an extension on the Article 50 process up to 31 October was because this marks the final day in office of the Juncker European Commission.

The hope clearly was that chief negotiator Michel Barnier would see a withdrawal deal finally agreed so that the incoming Commission could begin the long-awaited trade talks.

While these hopes seem to have been dashed — unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson can pull a cat out of the bag at the last moment — there will still at some point have to be trade negotiations, even after a no-deal Brexit.

Simple economics dictates that a UK pursuing deals around the globe still cannot afford to ignore the huge market across the Channel.

Those talks look as though they may have been made a little more difficult for the UK with the announcement by new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen of her decision to give the Trade portfolio to Ireland’s Phil Hogan.

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development since November 2014, Mr Hogan said: "This is undoubtedly one of the most important economic portfolios in the College of Commissioners, and the appointment comes at a very important time for the European Union and for Ireland.”

Described as a “hard and fair negotiator” by Ms von der Leyen, Mr Hogan’s appointment is seen as a sign that the EU will continue to prioritise the issue of the Irish border when future free trade negotiations get under way.

He has previously warned the UK that it faces “a huge gap between hope and experience” when it begins operating its own trade policy.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar said that, while the Commissioner will of course work for Europe as a whole, “it is a definite advantage to have an Irish person in charge of this crucial brief over the next five years”.

Last reviewed 11 September 2019