Britain’s most senior EU official resigns as Brussels points to the door

If Brexiters were hoping for clemency from Europe, they've had a rude awakening

Image: European Parliament

Jonathan Hill, the UK’s European commissioner, has announced his resignation, amid calls from MEPs to strip him of his duties.

Hill held the powerful finance portfolio, and the leader’s of the European Parliament’s most powerful political groups had called for his removal, objecting to the idea of a Briton controlling EU finances while the country was preparing to leave.

Hill acknowledged their concerns in a statement, saying that ‘as we move to a new phase, I don’t believe it is right that I should carry on as the British Commissioner as though nothing had happened.’

Across EU institutions, a clear message has been sent that Britain cannot expect to be treated gently as it prepares to exit.

While Boris Johnson has suggested there’s ‘no rush’ to invoke Article 50 and David Cameron suggested it could wait until a new prime minister was in place, the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker quickly pulled the rug out from under them.

“It doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try and negotiate the terms of their departure. I would like to get started immediately,” he said yesterday.

The EU’s five founding states have also made it clear that want to start the process as soon as possible, following a meeting this morning.

France has gone so far as to state that Britain should appoint a new prime minister within days.

The Mayor of Calais has also called for renegotiation of the Le Touquet treaty — which keeps the British border on the French side of the Channel — to be renegotiated.

Read Hill’s full statement on his resignation:

“Like many people here and in the UK, I am obviously very disappointed about the result of the referendum. I wanted it to end differently and had hoped that Britain would want to play a role in arguing for an outward-looking, flexible, competitive, free trade Europe. But the British people took a different decision, and that is the way that democracy works.

As we move to a new phase, I don’t believe it is right that I should carry on as the British Commissioner as though nothing had happened. In line with what I discussed with the President of the Commission some weeks ago, I have therefore told him that I shall stand down. At the same time, there needs to be an orderly handover, so I have said that I will work with him to make sure that happens in the weeks ahead.

I am very grateful to Jean-Claude Juncker for giving me the chance to work on financial services and for the opportunity to help support jobs and growth in Europe. I was also glad to have worked with other Commissioners in trying to take forward our programme of reform, and to have had the chance to work with excellent officials at DG FISMA and in my own team.

I came to Brussels as someone who had campaigned against Britain joining the euro and who was sceptical about Europe. I will leave it certain that, despite its frustrations, our membership was good for our place in the world and good for our economy. But what is done cannot be undone and now we have to get on with making our new relationship with Europe work as well as possible.”

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