Britain’s EU commissioner steps down after Brexit vote
EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Hill’s position as financial services chief would be taken by Valdis Dombrovskis, the commission vice president for the euro, but that he was open to taking a new British commissioner.
“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,” said a statement by Hill, a former member of Britain’s House of Lords.
“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,” he said.
Hill’s appointment in 2014 to the important financial services job was seen as an olive branch to a eurosceptic British government, due to the importance of the City of London financial centre to the British and European economy.
“Like many people here and in the UK, I am obviously very disappointed about the result of the referendum,” he said.
Hill said he had come to Brussels despite being “sceptical about Europe” but had become convinced that “despite its frustrations” membership benefitted Britain.
“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,” he added.
Juncker said he had tried to persuade Hill to stay on.
“I wanted the British Commissioner to be in charge of financial services, as a sign of my confidence in the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. To my great regret, this situation is now changing,” Juncker said.
“I have tried to convince Lord Hill to stay on as commissioner. I consider him to be a true European and not just the British Commissioner. However, I understand his decision and I respect it.”
The question now is whether London will appoint a new commissioner in order to have an official in the tent during Britain’s divorce negotiations from the EU, which are likely to take at least two years.
A European Commission statement said Juncker “stands ready to discuss swiftly with the British prime minister potential names for a commissioner of UK nationality as well as the allocation of a possible portfolio.”
But an EU source said that Britain would inevitably get a lower-profile job this time.
“With the vote of no confidence yesterday (Brexit) you cannot expect now that we place the same level of confidence to give him a really important portfolio like last time,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The EU’s treaties say each member state should have a commissioner — Britain remains a member until the divorce is finalised — “but the ball is really in the UK’s court” as to whether it nominates someone else.