BRUSSELS — Phil Hogan, the influential trade commissioner for the European Union, resigned Wednesday night over breaches to coronavirus guidelines during a recent dinner with lawmakers and other public figures in his native Ireland.
Mr. Hogan issued a statement expressing regret and making an “apology to the Irish people.’’
He was under great pressure at home after attending the dinner last week at a golf club, near Ireland’s west coast, in violation of coronavirus restrictions. The dinner, attended by about 80 politicians and government officials, violated a ban on large gatherings and fueled a sense that the powerful consider themselves above the rules they impose on others.
The uproar had already led to the resignation of Ireland’s agriculture minister and the disciplining of several lawmakers.
Mr. Hogan insisted on Tuesday that he had adhered to all rules during the trip, having gotten a negative coronavirus test. But Ireland’s regulations require anyone coming from Belgium to undergo a 14-day quarantine, which Mr. Hogan did not do.
On Tuesday evening, leaders of Ireland’s governing coalition, including the taoiseach, or prime minister, Micheal Martin, said in a joint statement that Mr. Hogan had been in breach of public health guidelines, and that his “delayed and hesitant release of information has undermined public confidence.”
As trade minister, Mr. Hogan, 60, occupied one of the most important positions in the European Commission, the bloc’s bureaucracy. A large, boisterous and blunt man, Mr. Hogan, a 6-foot-5 former farmer, was considered a good choice to represent Europe to the Trump administration, which has made the American trade deficit a major issue in international relations. The bilateral trade relationship is worth about $1 trillion a year.
“Personality matters, especially with the United States,’’ said Mujtaba Rahman, chief Europe analyst for the Eurasia Group. “He could deal with Trump and Robert Lighthizer,” President Trump’s trade representative, he said. Just last week, Washington and Brussels agreed on a tariff reduction deal — modest, but the first in a long time.
Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission president, will need to choose another Irish citizen to replace Mr. Hogan, though not necessarily with the same portfolio. There are numerous possibilities, including David O’Sullivan, who has much experience in Brussels. Mr. O’Sullivan was a senior trade official until 2010 and was most recently the bloc’s ambassador in Washington.
Importantly, Mr. Hogan’s top deputy, Sabine Weyand, is expected to remain. Ms. Weyand, a German who had previously worked on Brexit, is considered one of the stars of Brussels, with a sharp eye for detail.
Mr. Hogan had also put some noses in Brussels out of joint when he floated his name as a candidate to run the World Trade Organization. While his candidacy was highly unlikely, some European officials felt he had underestimated the importance of the job he already held, with the European Union struggling to balance its trading interests between the Trump administration and a more aggressive China.
Updated August 27, 2020
- There are a few basic things to consider. Does it have at least two layers? Good. If you hold it up to the light, can you see through it? Bad. Can you blow a candle out through your mask? Bad. Do you feel mostly OK wearing it for hours at a time? Good. The most important thing, after finding a mask that fits well without gapping, is to find a mask that you will wear. Spend some time picking out your mask, and find something that works with your personal style. You should be wearing it whenever you’re out in public for the foreseeable future. Read more: What’s the Best Material for a Mask?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It's a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it's windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
Mr. Hogan also played an important role in Brexit negotiations, navigating the difficulties of trade between Northern Ireland, which is a part of Britain, and the Irish Republic, a member of the European Union, while maintaining the invisible border between them.
While a change in commissioners will be disruptive, “the philosophy of E.U. trade is unlikely to change much,” said Mr. Rahman. The bloc will continue, he said, to leverage its status as “the world’s second-biggest market to impose European standards and priorities on trading partners.”