European Finance Commissioner Jonathan Hill has resigned in the wake of the Brexit referendum. Will the British government, which isn’t rushing to leave the EU, nominate a successor? Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels.
Britain’s withdrawal from Brussels has begun with the resignation of Lord Jonathan Hill, the European commissioner for financial stability, financial services and capital markets union. “What is done cannot be undone,” Hill said in his resignation, “and now we have to get on with making our new relationship with Europe work as well possible.” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker responded in writing that he regretted the resignation of a “true European.” The president and Hill had discussed this step a week in advance – just in case Brits voted to leave. When they did, Hill declined Juncker’s wish for him to stay longer.
In 2014, Juncker had specifically entrusted the British Conservative with the task of supervising money markets in London, Europe’s financial hub. “It was a symbol of my hope for the membership of the United Kingdom,” Juncker said. Before he was nominated to the European Commission, Hill had criticized the bureaucracy in Brussels. He asserted that he had not been “a starry-eyed European enthusiast” when he took the job. The commissioner-designate was thus met with skepticism in the European Parliament during hearings to determine his suitability for the post. Now, two years later, he is convinced that the EU model has done much good for Britain – especially in the establishment of a banking union and the intended capital market union. Hill was one of the few leading Brussels-based politicians who actively campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union.
The first post-Brexit public resignation of a leading British politician in Brussels could perhaps put the government in London under a bit of pressure. Right now, Great Britain wants to trigger the official exit process in October, after Prime Minister David Cameron has been replaced. However, Juncker wants to start divorce proceedings as soon as possible – even if that is a painful task.