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Ireland set to lose key trade portfolio after European Commission reshuffle

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President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, wearing a protective face mask, arrives for a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Aug. 27.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, wearing a protective face mask, arrives for a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Aug. 27.   -   Copyright  Francois Walschaerts/AP Photo
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Ireland looks set to lose the EU's key trade portfolio after a shake-up in Ursula von der Leyen's top team.

Latvia's Valdis Dombrovskis has been chosen to replace Ireland's Phil Hogan as EU trade commissioner, who resigned last month.

Ireland's new EU commissioner is MEP Mairead McGuinness. She has been given the financial services, stability and capital markets union portfolio.

MEPs will now need to approve the changes.

Dombrovskis is the former prime minister of Latvia and has been acting trade commissioner since Hogan's resignation.

McGuinness had "significant experience on EU issues", Von der Leyen said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Watch von der Leyen's statement in the video player, above.

McGuinness has been first vice-president of the European Parliament since 2017. She represents the northwest constituency in Ireland.

Ireland's Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he had "no doubt whatsoever that [McGuinness] will serve with distinction and will play a key role in the work of the Commission."

The Irish government had put forward Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell as candidates to be the country's next EU commissioner after former trade commissioner Phil Hogan resigned following controversy over flouting COVID-19 travel restrictions on a trip home to Ireland.

In a statement, Hogan said he resigned after it became “increasingly clear” the incidents were becoming a “distraction” from his work as a commissioner.

It was thought that Von der Leyen would nominate McGuiness in an effort to keep a gender balance amid her 27-member team. If confirmed as commissioner, it will be made up of 14 men and 13 women.

Hogan's resignation came at a time when the bloc is involved in several high profile trade negotiations with the UK, US and China.

Reactions to the trade appointment

European People's Party chairman Manfred Weber congratulated both appointments. He stated that with Dombrovskis, they "can be sure that Europe will continue to fight for ambitious international trade agreements".

Kathleen Van Brempt, the EU trade coordinator for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, tweeted the group would "continue the fight for enforceable labour & environmental standards, incorporating the #EUGreenDeal & fair digital trade rules" with the new trade commissioner.

Bernd Lange, a German social democratic MEP who leads the trade committee, said it was an "unusual portfolio".

"Good that the calls for a swift nomination have been heeded, we cannot afford a standstill. Unusual portfolio, to say the least," Lange tweeted.

Dombrovskis is set to remain the European Commission's representative on the EuroGroup, which brings together Eurozone finance ministers.