The deal would, however, create a customs border down the Irish Sea. A similar arrangement was rejected by Theresa May as a deal that no British prime minister could accept and the DUP made clear its reservations on Tuesday evening.
In a statement released after a 90-minute meeting at No 10 on Tuesday night, the DUP said it could not give detailed commentary amid ongoing negotiations but “it would be fair to indicate gaps remain and further work is required”.Quick guide
Why is the Irish border a stumbling block for Brexit?
Negotiators in Brussels worked until 2.30am London time and resumed talks on Wednesday morning. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is due to tell ambassadors for the 27 member states at 1pm whether there is an agreement to be signed off by leaders when they meet at a summit on Thursday.
The prime minister is expected to brief his cabinet on the situation at 4pm before addressing a scheduled meeting of the 1922 Committee in the evening.
Despite the DUP’s observations, Downing Street hopes that pro-Brexit Conservative MPs will back the agreement under discussion.
Steve Baker, the leader of the ERG, had emerged from a meeting in No 10 saying he was “optimistic that it is possible to reach a tolerable deal that I am able to vote for”, and later told fellow Eurosceptics to “trust in” the prime minister.
Under the deal being negotiated, Northern Ireland would not be part of the EU’s customs territory, but the bloc’s full customs code would have to be enforced in the Irish Sea.
“Northern Ireland would de jure be in the UK’s customs territory but de facto in the European Union’s,” one diplomatic source said of the tentative agreement.
The DUP’s nervousness is matched in Paris and Berlin. Speaking in Paris, a senior French official advised “extreme prudence” about the chances of a deal being struck that would satisfy the EU’s capitals.
The EU member states are yet to see the legal text that Barnier had demanded.
“It’s not the Irish who will make the deal,” the official said. “Yes, there are better atmospherics, but what matters is the content, and we have seen nothing yet. Whatever it is, we will want to look at it in very serious detail.”
German government officials said reaching a deal this week was an ambitious target and that agreeing on the technical issues could require another two months of talks, unless the UK made big enough concessions.
U.K. and Irish leaders meet in North West England.
Both commit to a statement claiming “a pathway to a possible deal” on Brexit.
Sterling rises to a session high as reporters suggest movement from the U.K. on Irish customs checks.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) speaks to the media ahead of his meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings on September 9, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland.Charles McQuillan | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The British pound rose sharply on Thursday after positive comments on Brexit from the leaders of the Republic of Ireland and the U.K.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar for further Brexit talks Thursday afternoon, with subsequent comments causing traders to buy the British pound.
Sterling rose to 1.2390 against the U.S. dollar by 4:55 p.m. London time after trading nearer $1.2218. It was up 1.3% versus the greenback for the session.
“The Prime Minister (Johnson) and Taoiseach (Varadkar) have had a detailed and constructive discussion,” the joint statement said.
“Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.”
The statement was also tweeted out from the Twitter account associated with the Irish leader Leo Varadkar.
The meeting reportedly lasted more than three hours, with Johnson and Varadkar initially speaking alone.
Squaring the Brexit circle
Ireland is at the center of the Brexit debate because the United Kingdom has a land border on the Irish mainland between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the south. The Republic is to remain in the European Union while Northern Ireland would leave as it is part of the United Kingdom.
Erecting a physical border between the two is problematic as it would contravene a peace treaty, known as the Good Friday Agreement. This treaty was put in place to help end a decades-long war that pitted Northern Irish unionist groups and the British state against different factions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The backstop is an arrangement whereby Northern Ireland remains in the customs union — a common tariff area — until a solution can be found to prevent any return of physical checks on the border.
Including the Irish backstop in any U.K. withdrawal deal has drawn fire from opponents who see it as a means of trapping the U.K. within Europe.
Editor’s note: Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author on behalf of our content partner and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft
Theresa May made a classic negotiating mistake by engaging in Brexit talks with the EU before agreeing a position with her own side. Her successor as UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is now making the opposite mistake by refusing to talk to the Europeans until they concede on his major demand — dropping the Northern Ireland “backstop” to prevent a hard border in Ireland. He is likely to incur a similarly disastrous outcome.
Setting preconditions to a negotiation in this way is almost always an error. Mr Johnson will either face a humiliating climbdown or the prospect of no negotiations taking place at all before the deadline of October 31.
He should learn from the experience of his predecessor John Major, who was forced to drop his demand that the IRA decommission its weapons before entering negotiations.
Patrick Mayhew, the Northern Ireland secretary, made a speech in which he reduced the demand to “the actual decommissioning of some arms”, which became known as “Washington Three”, the third condition for Sinn Féin’s participation. This too was rejected and in 1996 the IRA returned to violence.
The issue of the decommissioning of weapons continued to dog the talks for more than a decade but, in the end, the British government had to accept, on the basis of a formula proposed by US senator George Mitchell, that Sinn Féin could have a seat at the table without giving up a single weapon. The alternative was no peace negotiations.
Gallery: Brexit turmoil hits the streets (Reuters)
Mr Johnson has sprung himself a similar trap, even if with a very different sort of negotiating partner. There is no chance of the EU dropping the backstop as a precondition for meeting him, even if they were prepared to discuss it face to face. And, as long as the British government does not put forward a convincing alternative to deal with the threat posed to the Good Friday Agreement by Britain leaving the single market and the customs union and thereby recreating a hard border, the EU cannot back down.
The Brexiter refrain of “technology” does not address the question, let alone answer it. It is true that when, and if, the technology is invented, it could speed the passage of a lorry across the border, but that is not the problem. The problem is that a hard border again raises the issue of identity which was resolved by the Good Friday Agreement. Putting cameras and gates at or near the border makes that worse. The installations will become targets for attack by dissident republicans. We will be back where we started.
But perhaps Mr Johnson’s aim is not to get into a negotiation at all, even though he assures us there is only a one in a million chance of a no-deal Brexit. Perhaps he is trying to set up a situation where he can blame the EU for refusing to negotiate on the backstop, and a Remainer majority in the House of Commons for trying to block him from leaving the EU without a deal, and then call an election.
The response from the Brexiters is that convention doesn’t matter. But that works both ways. The UK does not have a written constitution, but our system depends on political leaders respecting unwritten rules. If the Tory radicals rip up the conventions, so can the opposition. The clear view of the civil service, as I understand it, is that a caretaker government, having been defeated in a confidence vote in parliament and holding an election, is not permitted to undertake controversial political acts during that period. If Mr Johnson were to press ahead, he would be plunging the country into a constitutional crisis.
Nor would that be the only crisis. Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser went to Brussels last week to ask when negotiations on a new relationship could start again after a no-deal Brexit. The answer: if the UK has crashed out and failed to pay its dues, it could be a very long time indeed. The country could be in purgatory for as long as a decade with no new relationship with the EU, having to kowtow to President Donald Trump’s terms for an unfavourable trade deal with the US.
What starts as a negotiating mis-step could result in a crisis on a scale we have not faced for 80 years.
Premier reiterates U.K. could leave bloc without a deal
Promise to leave border open puts Ireland in potential bind
Boris Johnson went a long way toward cementing his working majority in the U.K. Parliament with a visit to Northern Ireland on Wednesday, but did little to break the Brexit impasse with Dublin and Brussels.
The new prime minister met with the region’s main political parties in Belfast on the latest leg of a nationwide tour after taking office last week. He reiterated his plan to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without a deal, while promising not to add infrastructure at the Irish border — the U.K.’s land frontier with the bloc — in any Brexit scenario.
Only the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up the government in Westminster, came out unequivocally in support of Johnson’s strategy. Leader Arlene Foster called it “sensible” and echoed his demand for a Brexit deal that both removes the backstop — a fallback provision in the agreement designed to keep the border with Ireland free of checks — and doesn’t “break up the United Kingdom.”
Johnson’s rejection of the backstop, a key element of the divorce deal his predecessor Theresa May negotiated with Brussels, has put the U.K. on a collision course with the EU and made a no-deal Brexit — the scenario most feared by businesses — more likely. The U.K. is due to leave the bloc in just three months’ time.
Johnson’s pledge not to add physical infrastructure on the Irish border, without offering a solution for how customs checks can be done, is particularly challenging to the Republic of Ireland and the EU. It puts the onus on them to find a solution to what will become an external frontier for the bloc’s single market, while likely souring any talks on a future trade deal.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Ireland “isn’t going to be bullied” on the backstop and needs to stand firm. There is “total support” from the EU on the issue, he said in an interview with the Irish Mirror newspaper.
Johnson’s unwillingness to pursue a compromise on the backstop also triggered anger from his opponents in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said Brexit is changing minds on the issue of a united Ireland, and called on the U.K. government to lay out what it sees as the threshold for a referendum on unification.
“If you are democratically intent on it, who are we to stop you?” McDonald said of Brexit on BBC Radio. “But you can’t wreck Ireland in the process.”
The Ulster Unionist Party, even though it opposes the backstop, also used a meeting with Johnson to raise its opposition to leaving the EU without a deal, the Belfast Telegraph reported, citing leader Robin Swann.
The opposition of some of Northern Ireland’s parties won’t worry Johnson because he’s gained the approval for his “do or die” Brexit stance from the only one that matters in terms of votes in the Westminster Parliament — the DUP. Even a plunge in the pound hasn’t derailed that in the past few days.
“We are stepping up a gear and increasing the pace of our preparations as we get ready to leave the EU” on Oct. 31, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said in a statement after meeting executives from companies including General Electric, BAE Systems and Tate and Lyle Sugars in London.
Nevertheless, Johnson’s tour of the four U.K. nations — which he dubbed the “awesome foursome” — has not yielded wholly positive headlines. From boos in Edinburgh to a backlash from sheep farmers in Wales and calls for a united Ireland in Belfast, his promise to use Brexit to boost British unity looks a difficult challenge.
(Irish Times) Bipartisan committee ‘deeply concerned’ at Boris Johnson’s rejection of backstop
April 17th, 2019: US speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi addresses the Dáil, saying that there will be “no chance” of a US-UK trade deal should Brexit undermine the Belfast Agreement. Video: Oireachtas TV
A committee set up in the United States to protect the Belfast Agreement has warned the incoming Northern Ireland Secretary that a future US-UK trade deal will be “all but impossible” if the peace accord is undermined.
The bipartisan group, which includes five former US ambassadors, two former state governors and foreign policy experts including Nancy Soderberg, said it was “deeply concerned” at UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s rejection of the backstop last week.
“We remain deeply concerned given the new prime minister’s recent statement in the Commons that there can be no Irish backstop in the withdrawal agreement, even one with a time limit,” states the letter to Julian Smith that has been seen by The Irish Times. “We view the belief that alternative arrangements can easily solve the problem of the Irish Border with a healthy scepticism as do many experts.”
Noting house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comments to The Irish Times last week that Congress will not sign off on a trade deal if the peace agreement is undermined, the letter states that a trade deal will be “all but impossible”.
“As former members of Congress we can assure you that getting any trade deal through the Congress is challenging at any time,” states the letter which is signed by former members of congress Bruce Morrison and Jim Walsh.
Outlining the role played by the United States in the peace process more than 20 years ago, the letter notes that the US remains engaged and “deeply committed” to protecting and sustaining the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Whatever the future direction of the Brexit process we reiterate that the Irish Border must remain open and seamless so that we can maintain the peace that we all have worked so hard to achieve together.”
It also urges the new Northern Ireland Secretary to make the restoration of devolved governance at Stormont a “priority”.
The latest intervention by senior figures in the United States reflects increasing alarm by many in the Irish-American community about the political situation in Northern Ireland and the implications of Brexit on the future of the Border.
Ms Pelosi’s warning last week to the British government that there should be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, has again prompted doubts about the viability of a future trade deal between the US and Britain – a key priority for those advocating Britain’s departure from the EU.
Speaking following Ms Pelosi’s comments, Mr Trump said on Friday that he had spoken to Mr Johnson by phone and supported an “ambitious trade agreement” with Britain after Brexit. Britain was “actually impeded by the relationship with the European Union,” he said. “I think we can do three to four, five times what we’re doing.”
But any trade deal between Britain and the US – whether or not Mr Trump remains in the Oval Office after next year’s election – needs the sign-off of Congress.
The Trump administration is currently struggling to secure congressional approval for its revised Nafta agreement – an existing trade accord between the United States, Mexico and Canada which is relatively uncontentious.
(BBG) Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar gave his strongest signal yet that he’s not to prepared to use his veto over Brexit talks in the face of opposition from other European countries, saying isolating the government in negotiations would be a “ a really big mistake strategically.”
The Irish border issue grants Varadkar an effective veto over the first phase of Brexit talks. In addition to the divorce settlement, the European Union wants sufficient progress towards an agreement guaranteeing citizens’ rights after 2019, as well as on an arrangement that averts reinstating a hard border in Ireland before talks move on to a future trade deal.
To “set ourselves apart would be a really big mistake strategically, ” Varadkar said in parliament in Dublin on Tuesday. “The best way to get an outcome” would be as part of the wider bloc.
Varadkar has considered pushing for guarantees that no border will be reimposed on the island of Ireland as the price for allowing Brexit talks to move ahead, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Ultimately, though, it’s in the Irish interest to allow talks to move on to trade — Ireland is the economy most vulnerable to Brexit and ultimately the border question can’t be fully resolved until the shape of the future trading relationship is clear, Varadkar has said.
Moreover, Ireland will likely face pressure not to hold up Brexit talks over the border should the U.K. and EU reach a preliminary accord on a financial settlement, a European official familiar with the negotiation process said. It’s probably not tenable for Ireland to hold out on the border if all the other countries are satisfied on the bill, the person said.
Still, Manfred Weber, leader of the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament, said it’s increasingly unlikely that EU leaders will give the green light in December to the next stage of Brexit talks.
“We have no clear readiness from the London side to commit to further compromises and that’s why for the moment we are in a blocked situation,” he told reporters at the 28-nation EU Parliament’s headquarters in Strasbourg, France.
(BBG) Helen Grogan says her bank has left her brimming with “rage, frustration and anger” and 40,000 euros ($47,000) worse off.
In common with 13,000 other Irish bank customers, Grogan was overcharged in a mortgage scandal that has reignited anger towards the industry almost a decade after taxpayers had to bail it out.
“I was ripped off by the bank,” she told a parliamentary committee in Dublin this month, adding she had been “duped into thinking I had a product that I could count on.”
Pressure is now mounting on the banks, fueled by their tardy response to the affair. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has summoned a clutch of bank chief executives to his Dublin office this week after Prime Minister Leo Varadkar branded their conduct “scandalous.” The nation’s central bank said it’s liaising with police to figure out what happened.
While it was about politicians in Greece and Portugal, Irish anger during the European debt crisis was honed more on the financial industry that was left crippled from lending to property developers and needed 64 billion euros of taxpayers’ money. Bankers were spat at, egged and vilified.
That antagonism had begun to fade, before the latest scandal blew up. The roots of the issue lie with so-called tracker loans, which were closely tied to the European Central Bank’s key rate. Such loans came into vogue before the crash that devastated the Irish economy from 2008. Bank funding costs surged as the financial system teetered on the edge of collapse, meaning such loans became loss-making as the ECB slashed interest rates.
Grogan took out a tracker loan with the bank that has been since become Permanent TSB Group Holdings Plc in 2005. The mortgage carried the ECB rate plus 0.6 percent, which she believed would then rise to 0.8 percent after the first year. Instead, the bank offered her a much higher tracker rate or a cheaper variable loan.
Grogan took the variable rate. Then, her bank began to lift that rate to offset losses on its tracker loans.
“The rate started to go up and up,” she said. “The rate went up higher than everybody else’s and all of a sudden it was very high compared with what it would have been had I stayed on the tracker.”
In 2015, the nation’s regulator ordered banks that offered tracker mortgages to review their loan books. That revealed a pattern of overcharging. So far lenders have identified 13,000 accounts that were affected in some way, and there may be more to come, Irish Central
Bank Governor Philip Lane told lawmakers in Dublin last week.
The banks are scrambling to contain the fallout. More than 80 percent of its impacted customers had received redress offers, Permanent TSB said. AIB has paid redress and compensation to 97 percent of accounts it has identified, a spokesman said.
After meeting Donohoe on Tuesday in Dublin, AIB CEO Bernard Byrne said he apologized again to suffering customers.
“We are fully committed to working in line with the framework that exists and we’re confident we’ll be able to make significant progress,” Byrne told reporters in Dublin.
Ulster Bank has begun paying redress and compensation, the lender said. Bank of Ireland referred to its most recent formal update on the issue in December, which showed it identified about 4,500 accounts as part of the current review.
KBC said it acknowledged “errors” in relation to trackers and said its “focus is to identify all customers impacted” and “move without delay to redress and compensation.”
Banks have handed out about 120 million euros in compensation so far, and may pay 500 million euros in total, according to Owen Callan, an analyst at Investec Plc in Dublin. Most analysts says the banks’ current provisions should be enough to cover the problem.
Still, the threat might be mounting. Varadkar told lawmakers that banks may face increased taxation and more oversight if they fail to act. For Helen Grogan, the affair means she might carry her mortgage into retirement.
“I am just looking for justice,” she said. “It is such a disgrace that we are all made to feel responsible for making a silly or stupid decision or not getting the right advice and letting the banks ride roughshod over us.”
The European Commission is taking Ireland to court for failing to recover taxes from Apple.
The executive arm of the EU ordered Ireland last year to recover 13 billion euros ($15.28 billion) back from Apple after it said the U.S. multinational firm benefited from sweetheart tax deals.
“Ireland has to recover up to 13 billion euros in illegal state aid from Apple. However, more than one year after the Commission adopted this decision, Ireland has still not recovered the money, also not in part,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s commissioner for competition, said in a statement Wednesday.
“We of course understand that recovery in certain cases may be more complex than in others, and we are always ready to assist. But member states need to make sufficient progress to restore competition. That is why we have today decided to refer Ireland to the EU Court for failing to implement our decision,” Vestager added.
(JN) O irlandês Permanent TSB foi multado em 2,5 milhões de euros por não ter cumprido os requisitos de liquidez impostos pelo Banco Central Europeu.
O Mecanismo Único de Supervisão, o “braço” supervisor do Banco Central Europeu (BCE), aplicou uma multa de 2,5 milhões de euros ao banco irlandês Permanent TSB por este não ter cumprido os requisitos de liquidez exigidos. Foi a primeira vez desde que começou a operar, no final de 2014, que este organismo aplicou uma coima a uma instituição financeira.
Segundo o Financial Times, o Mecanismo Único de Supervisão informou que aplicou uma coima de 1,75 milhões de euros ao banco irlandês por este não ter cumprido “requisitos específicos de liquidez” exigidos pelo supervisor em Novembro de 2015.
O Permanent TSB teve uma coima adicional de 750 mil euros por ter voltado a incumprir com as exigências do organismo liderado por Danièle Nouy (na foto) em Fevereiro.
Segundo o BCE, o banco irlandês não cumpriu os requisitos relativos ao rácio de cobertura de liquidez entre Outubro de 2015 e Abril de 2016.
Em comunicado citado pelo jornal britânico, o Permanent TSB garante que cooperou totalmente com o BCE e que tem uma posição de liquidez de acordo com as regras desde Abril de 2016.
“As violações surgiram de uma interpretação errada da revisão de um regulamento que actualizou elementos dentro do cálculo do rácio de cobertura de liquidez que se relacionavam com o tratamento do financiamento do BCE. Em nenhum momento durante este período, a posição real de liquidez do grupo se deteriorou”, sublinha o banco no comunicado.
Um porta-voz do organismo de supervisão confirmou que foi a primeira multa aplicada a um banco pelo Mecanismo Único de Supervisão, enquanto o informou que a instituição irlandesa já “remediou completamente a questão”.
De acordo com o Financial Times, o banco pode recorrer da decisão no Tribunal Europeu de Justiça.
I am afraid that even my worst nightmares about the European Union have materialized.
And gone even beyond.
The EU is clearly interfering in it’s Member States internal affairs, and in some cases External Affairs also, when these Member States want to pursue policies with which the EU does not agree.
The EU is currently a failure in many aspects, as opposed to the best idea for Europe that it was after WW II.
Things started to go very wrong at Maastricht in 1992 with the treaties that bear its name.
Afterwards modified by the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997 1999),the Treaty of Nice (2001 2003), and ultimately by the Treaty of Lisbon (2007 2009).
Germany did not want the Euro, because it was very happy with it’s Deutsche Mark.
And I am of the opinion that the Euro is the Mother of all Calamities in the EU.
As Berlin didn’t want the Euro, and in order to convince them, Paris effectively gave Berlin the powers to shape it at their own will.
Amid the general propaganda going on at the time, crucial details were not disclosed, and most of the opposing voices were silenced, one way or another.
But some aspects were clear, and were spotted by persons like Martin Wolf of the Financial Times…
Germany had a very low inflation and a very high productivity growth…
Countries with a higher inflation rate and a lower productivity growth would in time loose competitiveness with Germany and became German “protectorates”…
On the other hand Germany wanted to guaranty a cheap currency to be able to continue to grow with it’s exports.
Officially in order to assure the soundness of the euro, a number of rules were put in place that assured that a “perfect storm” for the European Union South Members would arrive.
But, the same rules in place were always ignored by France (the 3 % deficit limit), and by Germany and the Netherlands (the 6% external surplus maximum).
And you know what the EU did about this…?
In practical terms the EU has become a kind of dictatorial and imperialistic system.
In fact dictating internal policies to it’s Members States that have lost almost all of their independence…
On the other hand Germany has benefited from a low value currency having achieved, for example, a surplus with the US similar to the Chinese one, which is ridiculous!
The UK, which is the number two economy in the EU,and that was smart enough not to adopt the Euro, said we had enough of this ridiculous situation.
And it’s People voted to preserve their Queen and Country, regardless of the economic consequences.
The European Commission panicked and started interfering in the UK internal affairs and external relations.
Vide the case of Gibraltar in which the EU said that any arrangement post Brexit with the UK would only apply to Gibraltar with the agreement of the Kingdom of Spain!
(That has no legitimate claim whatsoever to Gibraltar in my opinion)
Vide now this case of the EU inciting the implosion of the UK in Northern Ireland with the excuse of the borders with the Republic of Ireland.
The EU is furious because it lost it’s second largest contributor, and wants Brexit to be a failure to discourage any more Member States leaving.
And disguise it’s own failure!
The EU has become a kind of imperialistic dictatorship!
But it is committing Harakiri because more and more Member Countries will want to leave this, I repeat this, European Union, unless it reforms itself entirely.
Vide the warnings by the Kingdom of Denmark.
I Francisco say:
Enough is enough!
Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira
EU prepares for post-Brexit membership for united Ireland
27 April 2017
By Alex Barker and Arthur Beesley in Brussels and Vincent Boland in Dublin, Source: FT.com
European leaders are preparing to recognise the potential for a “united Ireland” within the EU, confirming that Northern Ireland would seamlessly rejoin the bloc after Brexit in the event of a vote for Irish reunification.
In a step that may stoke concerns in Britain that Brexit could hasten the fragmentation of the UK, diplomats are planning to ask leaders of the EU’s 27 post-Brexit member countries to endorse the idea in a summit on Saturday.
It would allow the province to follow the example of German reunification in 1990 and reflect the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
The agreement allows a referendum on reuniting Ireland where there is reason to believe a majority in the province is in favour.
Britain and Ireland are committed to upholding the Good Friday Agreement as co-guarantors. But the increased talk of Irish reunification will reinforce the fears of those in Britain who believe Brexit will bolster those championing a UK break-up.
A letter from Donald Tusk, European Council president, sent to members of the European Council ahead of this weekend’s summit makes it clear that Ireland is one of the three priorities for the first phase of Brexit talks, along with citizen rights and the exit bill.
In the letter, released on Friday, Mr Tusk wrote: “in order to protect the peace and reconciliation process described by the Good Friday Agreement, we should aim to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has already called for a Scottish independence referendum within two years, as Britain’s departure from the union is finalised.
However, a UK government source said on Thursday evening: “Northern Ireland’s constitutional position as part of the UK is based firmly and clearly on the freely given consent of its people. The UK government has consistently upheld the principle of consent regarding Northern Ireland’s future.
“It is clear that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland continue strongly to support the current political settlement, including Northern Ireland’s continuing position within the UK.”
Saturday’s gathering in Brussels will mark the formal adoption of EU guidelines for Brexit talks with the UK, staking out a tough opening stance with a common front on issues such as Gibraltar, Northern Ireland and the rights of EU migrants.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Britain on Thursday not to harbour illusions about the bloc’s resolve. “I have to put it in such clear terms because unfortunately I have the feeling that some in Britain still have illusions,” Ms Merkel told the Bundestag. “But that would be a waste of time.”
No final decision has been taken on a specific text on Irish unity. It would be part of accompanying documents to the guidelines for Saturday’s summit, because it is seen as a clarification of law rather than something to be negotiated in Europe’s talks with Britain.
EU27 ambassadors were first told of the plan at a meeting on Wednesday but Mr Tusk has yet to share a text, which was suggested by Dublin.
Enda Kenny has pushed for a “united Ireland” reference in the final Brexit treaty that will confirm the UK’s exit, but an EU statement at the outset of talks would be seen as a diplomatic coup as he prepares to step down as taoiseach – prime minister – after six years.
Advocates of the reference to Northern Ireland and reunification say the reference simply reflects the Good Friday pact, signed long before Brexit was anticipated. But it would still send a powerful signal at a sensitive moment in the politics of the island.
Under pressure to hand power to a younger generation, Mr Kenny has said he will make his intentions for his political future clear once the “ground rules for Brexit” are set. This has fuelled expectations that he will step down within weeks, setting in motion a contest for the leadership of his centre-right Fine Gael party.
Ireland is the most exposed of the EU’s remaining member states to Brexit. Dublin is desperate to avoid a clean break between the UK and the EU, which could severely damage Irish-British trade that runs to €1.2bn a week.
But it also wants to be seen to play a full part in the negotiations on the EU side. “We will not be a proxy for the British in the exit negotiations,” Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan told the Financial Times in an interview.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017
(c) 2017 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved. Please do not cut and paste FT articles and redistribute by email or post to the web.
(JN) Os líderes dos 27 Estados-membros da União Europeia reúnem-se amanhã para afinar a estratégia para o Brexit. Durante o encontro, devem reconhecer que se a Irlanda do Norte passar a integrar a República da Irlanda vai pertencer automaticamente à União Europeia.
Os líderes dos 27 Estados-membros reúnem-se este sábado para afinar a estratégia comunitária para negociar a saída do Reino Unido da União Europeia. E durante o encontro, os principais responsáveis dos 27 Estados-membros deverão formalmente reconhecer que a Irlanda do Norte, caso venha a unificar-se com a República da Irlanda, ficará automaticamente a ser membro da UE, de acordo com fontes diplomáticas da Reuters. No referendo realizado em Junho do ano passado à permanência do Reino Unido no bloco europeu, a maioria dos eleitores na Escócia e na Irlanda do Norte votaram pela permanência.
O primeiro-ministro irlandês, Enda Kenny, já tinha pedido aos seus homólogos para reconhecerem que a Irlanda do Norte entraria automaticamente para a UE no caso de uma unificação com a República da Irlanda. No fundo, que acontecesse o mesmo que sucedeu em 1990 aquando da reunificação da República Democrática da Alemanha e da República Federal da Alemanha.
Enda Keny vai mesmo pedir aos restantes 26 Estados-membros para que o plano de negociação para a saída de Londres inclua o apoio político para aquilo que Dublin e especialistas legais da União Europeia consideram ser a posição da lei internacional para tais mudanças territoriais, de acordo com a agência. “Vai meramente afirmar as evidências, isto é, que uma Irlanda unida continua a ser membro da UE”, disse uma fonte que está a trabalhar na preparação do Conselho Europeu deste sábado.
“A UE, claro, que não toma uma posição sobre a possibilidade de uma Irlanda unida. Se a questão surgir, será a população da Irlanda e da Irlanda do Norte que decidem de acordo com Acordo de Sexta-feira Santa”.
O acordo de paz, assinado em 1998, refere que um referendo deve ser realizado tanto na República da Irlanda como na Irlanda do Norte para que a unificação possa concretizar-se.
Merkel e o fim da “ilusão” britânica
Ontem, a chanceler alemã, Angela Merkel, alertou os britânicos para não terem “ilusões”, que os interesses da União vão ser primeiramente acautelados. “Um terceiro estado, e é isso que o Reino Unido vai ser, não pode nem vai ter ao seu dispor os mesmos direitos… que os membros da UE”, disse no Parlamento, citada pela Reuters.
“Podem pensar que estas coisas são evidentes mas, infelizmente, tenho de colocar isto em termos claros porque sinto que algumas pessoas no Reino Unido continuam a ter ilusões sobre isto”, disse Angela Merkel, citada pela Bloomberg. “Mas isso seria uma perda de tempo”.
Merkel adiantou ainda que as negociações para os termos que vão levar à saída têm de ser discutidos antes de ser debatida uma nova relação comercial. “Apenas podemos fazer um acordo sobre a relação futura entre o Reino Unido e a UE depois de todas as questões sobre os termos da saída estarem clarificados de forma satisfatória”, sublinhou citada pelo The Guardian.
Esta sexta-feira, Donald Tusk alinhou no mesmo discurso. O presidente do Conselho Europeu defende que é fundamental tratar do passado antes de discutir o futuro, devendo ser dada prioridade às matérias que os “Vinte e Sete” querem ver salvaguardadas.
“Devo sublinhar um elemento das nossas orientações propostas, que considero ser chave para o sucesso destas negociações, pelo que deve ser absolutamente compreendido e aceite por todos. Refiro-me à ideia de uma abordagem faseada, o que significa que não discutiremos as nossas relações futuras com o Reino Unido até termos alcançado progressos suficientes nas questões principais relativas à saída do Reino Unido da UE”, escreve Tusk na missiva enviada aos líderes europeus, entre os quais o primeiro-ministro António Costa.
Depois de os líderes dos “Vinte e Sete” aprovarem, no sábado, as linhas directrizes para as negociações, será elaborado um mandato para Michel Barnier, chefe negociador da União Europeia, que deverá estar pronto até 22 de Maio, mas as negociações – que deverão ser concluídas no espaço de dois anos – só deverão arrancar depois das eleições no Reino Unido marcadas para 8 de Junho.
(Reuters) Turnout was higher among Irish nationalist voters than pro-British unionists in elections in Northern Ireland on Thursday, an online exit poll indicated, but it was unclear if it would be enough to shift the balance of power in the British province.
Nationalists who favour a united Ireland and unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain British are jostling for position ahead of talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union, which is set to determine the province’s political and economic future.
Opinion polls ahead of the election indicated that the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party would lose votes but remain the largest party, followed by Irish nationalists Sinn Fein.
An online exit poll by Lucid Talk found that turnout appeared to be 2-3 percent higher among nationalist voters compared to an election year ago while turnout for unionist voters was unchanged.
“People seem to be more engaged on the Republican side to come out and vote,” said Bill White, managing director at Lucid Talk. “That differential turnout could come into play when last seats are in play.”
A voter arrives at a boathouse being used as a polling station, on polling day for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, at Groomsport near Bangor in Northern Ireland, March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
While analysts say Sinn Fein is unlikely to become the largest party for the first time – an outcome that would turn Northern Ireland politics on its head – a strong showing could help them secure concessions from the DUP.
Sinn Fein is insisting that DUP leader Arlene Foster step aside before it will consider re-entering government. While the DUP have rejected this outright, a poor result might force her to step down.
The largest unionist and nationalist parties after the election will have three weeks to form a power-sharing government to avoid devolved power returning to the British parliament at Westminster for the first time in a decade.
While no one predicts the impasse will bring a return to the violence that killed 3,600 people in the three decades before a 1998 peace agreement, some are warning of a deterioration in community relations coupled with government paralysis as Brexit talks determine the province’s political and economic future.
Sinn Fein brought on the election by collapsing the power-sharing government in January over the role of the DUP in a scandal over heating subsidies that could cost the state 500 million pounds. The DUP deny wrongdoing.
(IBT) Apple and the Irish government are set to appeal against the European Commission’s decision to hand the iPhone maker a huge tax bill.
Ireland is set to appeal against the European Union’s (EU) tax decision on Apple. It has said the US tech-giant was wrongly handed the mammoth tax bill of €13bn ($13.59bn, £10.8bn) in August and accused Brussels of interfering with national sovereignty.
The tax bill, by far the highest handed over to any company in Europe, was misjudged according to Ireland as the European Commission misunderstood both Irish law and the facts of the case. The government said the commission had not only exceeded its powers but made attempts to rewrite Irish corporation tax rules.
“Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers,” the Irish finance ministry said in its latest statement.
Ireland will argue that the commission wrongly applied EU state-aid rules to the Apple case. The commission had alleged that Apple received illegal state-aid from Ireland in return for creating jobs in the nation.
“Ireland does not accept the commission’s analysis, which is why we have lodged an application with the General Court of the European Union to annul the whole decision,” says the ministry. “Ireland did not give favourable tax treatment to Apple — the full amount of tax was paid in this case and no state aid was provided.”
Meanwhile, Apple is also ready to file its appeal against the ruling highlighting the fact that it was a “convenient target because it generates lots of headlines”. The company’s general counsel Bruce Sewell says the commission has “a misunderstanding of how corporations operate” as in this case it targeted Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe, the company’s subsidiaries that are registered in Ireland but do not come under the resident entity category for tax applications.
(BBG) The iPhone came out in 2007. So why was Apple still paying taxes like it was 1990?
“The Maxforce” is the European Union team that ordered Ireland to collect billions of euros in back taxes from Apple Inc., rattled the Irish government, and spurred changes to international tax law. You’d think it might have earned the name by applying maximum force while investigating alleged financial shenanigans. It didn’t. It’s just led by a guy named Max.
A European Commission official gave the nickname to the Task Force on Tax Planning Practices in honor of its chief, Max Lienemeyer, a lanky, laid-back German attorney who rose to prominence vetting plans to shore up struggling banks during Europe’s debt crisis. Since its launch in 2013, the Maxforce has looked at the tax status of hundreds of companies across Europe, including a deal Starbucks Corp. had in the Netherlands, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s agreement with Luxembourg, and — its largest case — Apple in Ireland.
Lienemeyer’s team of 15 international civil servants pursued a three-year investigation stretching from the corridors of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to Ireland’s Finance Ministry and on to Apple’s leafy headquarters in Cupertino, California. Much of it outlined for the first time here, this story chronicles a growing clash between Europe and the U.S. and a shift in the EU’s approach to the tax affairs of multinationals.
The Maxforce concluded that Ireland allowed Apple to create stateless entities that effectively let it decide how much — or how little — tax it pays. The investigators say the company channeled profits from dozens of countries through two Ireland-based units. In a system at least tacitly endorsed by Irish authorities, earnings were split, with the vast majority attributed to a “head office” with no employees and no specific home base — and therefore liable to no tax on any profits from sales outside Ireland. The U.S., meanwhile, didn’t tax the units because they’re incorporated in Ireland.
In August the EU said Ireland had broken European law by giving Apple a sweetheart deal. It ordered the country to bill the iPhone maker a record 13 billion euros ($13.9 billion) in back taxes, plus interest, from 2003 to 2014. One example the Commission cites: In 2011, a unit called Apple Sales International recorded profits of about 16 billion euros from sales outside the U.S. But only 50 million euros were considered taxable in Ireland, leaving 15.95 billion euros of profit untaxed, the Commission says.
Though the EU says its goal is “to ensure equal treatment of companies” across Europe, Apple maintains that the Commission selectively targeted the company. With the ruling, the EU is “retroactively changing the rules and choosing to disregard decades of Irish law,” and its investigators don’t understand the differences between European and U.S. tax systems, Apple said in a Dec. 8 statement.
Apple, which has some 6,000 workers in Ireland, says its Irish units paid the parent company a licensing fee to use the intellectual property in its products. The Irish companies didn’t own the IP, so they don’t owe tax on it in Ireland, Apple says, but the units will face a U.S. tax bill when they repatriate the profits. Apple expects to pay about 26 percent of its earnings in tax for the most recent fiscal year and has set aside some $32 billion to cover taxes it says it will face should overseas income be returned to the U.S. “This case has never been about how much tax Apple pays, it’s about where our tax is paid,” the company said. “We pay tax on everything we earn.”
Ireland on Nov. 9 appealed the Commission’s ruling at the EU General Court in Luxembourg, arguing it has given Apple no special treatment. Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said he “profoundly disagrees” with the ruling and that Ireland strictly adheres to tax regulations. The government says Ireland has no right to tax non-resident companies for profits that come from activities outside the country.
“Look at the small print” on an iPhone, Noonan said after the EU released its ruling in August. “It says designed in California, manufactured in China. That means any profits that accrued didn’t accrue in Ireland, so I can’t see why the tax liability is in Ireland.”
In the coming weeks, the EU is expected to publish details of the Maxforce investigation. At about the same time, Apple will likely lodge its own appeal in the EU court. Though Apple will have to pay its tax bill within weeks, the money will be held in escrow, and the issue will probably take years to be resolved.
This story is based on interviews with dozens of officials from the EU, Ireland, and Apple, though most didn’t want to speak on the record discussing sensitive tax matters. A Maxforce representative declined to make Lienemeyer available for an interview. Ireland’s Office of Revenue Commissioners (the equivalent of the American Internal Revenue Service) says it can’t comment on specific companies.
Lienemeyer began assembling the Maxforce in late spring of 2013 with a mandate of scrutinizing tax policies across Europe in search of any favoritism. Direct subsidies or tax breaks to court a specific company are illegal in the EU to prevent governments aiding national champions. His first hire — the person who would oversee the Apple probe — was Helena Malikova, a Slovak who had worked at Credit Suisse Group AG in Zurich. He quickly added Kamila Kaukiel, a Polish financial analyst who had been at KPMG, and Saskia Hendriks, a former tax policy adviser to the Dutch government.
As the four initial members began their investigations, they got a head start from a U.S. Senate probe of the tax strategies of American multinationals. The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said Apple shifted tens of billions of dollars in profit into stateless affiliates based in Ireland, where it paid an effective tax rate of less than 2 percent.
At 9:30 a.m. on May 21, 2013, senators gathered in Room 106 of the Dirksen Office Building. Included in the evidence presented that day was a 2004 letter from Tom Connor, an official at Ireland’s tax authority, to Ernst & Young, Apple’s tax adviser. Connor’s question: A unit of the tech company hadn’t filed a tax return; Was it still in business? E&Y responded two days later that the division was a non-resident holding company with no real sales. “There is nothing to return from the corporation tax standpoint,” E&Y wrote. The Senate exhibits didn’t include Connor’s response if there ever was one.
At the hearing, Arizona Republican John McCain castigated Apple as “one of the biggest tax avoiders in America.” Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan peered over the glasses perched on the tip of his nose and said Apple uses “offshore tax strategies whose purpose is tax avoidance, pure and simple.” Crucially, though, Levin told the crowded room that under U.S. law, there was little the panel could do to force Apple to pay more tax. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook passionately defended the company’s actions, telling the senators “We don’t depend on tax gimmicks.”
The Senate revelations raised eyebrows at the Maxforce’s office in Madou Tower, a 1960s high-rise in the rundown Saint-Josse neighborhood of Brussels. Three weeks after the Senate hearing, Lienemeyer’s team asked Ireland for details of Apple’s tax situation. The Irish tax authorities soon dispatched a representative carrying a briefcase filled with a bundle of bound pages. The Irish could have simply sent the material via e-mail, but they were cautious about sharing taxpayer’s information with the EU and have a ground rule to avoid leaks: never send such documents electronically.
While the Irish government remained bullish in its public statements, saying Apple hadn’t received any favors, behind the scenes tensions were rising. Through the summer of 2013, the Finance Ministry assured government ministers that the EU investigation would amount to nothing, according to people familiar with the discussions. But those assertions seemed less confident than earlier communications. There was a sense that Apple had worked out its Irish tax position in a vastly different era, and no one remembered many details of the negotiations decades earlier.
In 1980, the four-year-old company — the Apple III desktop had just been released — created several Irish affiliates, each with a different function such as manufacturing or sales, according to the Senate report. Under Irish laws dating to the 1950s designed to shore up the moribund post-war economy, as a so-called export company Apple paid no taxes on overseas sales of products made in Ireland.
To comply with European rules, Ireland finally ended its zero-tax policy in 1990. After that, Apple and Ireland agreed that the profit attributed to a key Ireland-based unit, the division discussed in Tom Connor’s letter, be capped using a complex formula that in 1990 would have resulted in a taxable profit of $30 million to $40 million.
An Apple tax adviser “confessed there was no scientific basis” for those figures, but that the amounts would be “of such magnitude that he hoped it would be seen as a bona-fide proposal,” according to notes from a 1990 meeting with the Irish tax authority cited by the EU. The equation didn’t change even as Apple began assembling the bulk of its products in Asia.
Ireland and Apple started to make changes a few months after the Maxforce began looking into their tax relationship. In October 2013, Finance Minister Noonan announced he would close the loophole that let stateless holding companies operate out of Ireland. The EU said Apple changed the structure of its Irish units in 2015, which the company says it did to comply with the shift in Irish law.
As the Maxforce stepped up its probe in June 2014, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny was wooing potential investors in California. At a San Francisco event to promote Irish entrepreneurs, Governor Jerry Brown quipped that he had thought Apple “was a California company,” but according to tax returns, “they’re really an Irish company.” News clips show Irish officials looking on stony-faced as the governor makes his jest.
With Lienemeyer’s team digging further into the issue, Apple’s concern deepened. In January 2016, CEO Cook met with Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition chief — and Lienemeyer’s ultimate boss — on the 10th-floor of the Berlaymont building, the institutional headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.
Vestager, a daughter of two Lutheran pastors, has a reputation for being even-handed but tough, cutting unemployment benefits while advocating strict new rules for banks when she served as Denmark’s finance minister. While she has acknowledged that her team had little experience with tax rulings — in a November interview with France’s Society magazine, she said, “We learned on the job” — Vestager says enforcement of EU rules on taxation is a matter of “fairness.”
In the meeting with Cook she quizzed him on the tax Apple paid in various jurisdictions worldwide. She told the Apple executives that “someone has to tax you,” according to a person present at the meeting. In a Jan. 25 follow-up letter obtained by Bloomberg, Cook thanked Vestager for a “candid and constructive exchange of views,” and reasserted that Apple’s earnings are “subject to deferred taxation in the U.S. until those profits are repatriated.”
Subsequent correspondence became more heated. On March 14, Cook wrote to Vestager that he had “concerns about the fairness of these proceedings.” The Commission had failed to explain fully the basis on which Apple was being investigated, and the body’s approach was characterized by “inconsistency and ambiguity,” Cook said.
Apple contended that the EU had backtracked on a 2014 decision recognizing that its two Irish subsidiaries were not technically resident in Ireland, and therefore only liable for taxes on profits derived from Irish sources. Now, Cook said, it seemed the Commission was intent on “imposing a massive, retroactive tax on Apple by attributing to the Irish branches all of Apple’s global profits outside the Americas.”
“There is no inconsistency,” an EU spokesman said in a Dec. 15 statement. Only a fraction of the profits of the subsidiaries were taxed in Ireland, the statement said. “As a result, the tax rulings enabled Apple to pay substantially less tax than other companies, which is illegal under EU state aid rules.”
Cook’s entreaties did little to sway Vestager, and in August she phoned Noonan to tell him the results of the Maxforce investigation: The Commission was going to rule against Ireland. Late in the afternoon of Aug. 29, Irish officials began hinting to reporters that Apple’s tax bill amounted to billions and “could be anything.” At noon the following day, Vestager told a packed press conference in Brussels that the Commission had decided Apple owed Ireland 13 billion euros.
Though that would be equivalent to 26 percent of the 2015 national budget, Ireland didn’t want the windfall, saying the ruling was flawed because the country hadn’t given Apple any special treatment. The decision sparked a political crisis as left-leaning members of Enda Kenny’s fragile minority administration saw a potential bonanza for taxpayers that the world’s richest company could well afford. Even as Noonan toured television studios vowing to appeal the decision, independent lawmakers demanded that Ireland take the money.
Facing a potential revolt that could bring down the government, Kenny and Noonan eventually bowed to demands for a review of the country’s corporate tax system. But they said they would fight the case, and on Sept. 7, Irish lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the motion for an appeal.
Officials from Lienemeyer’s team and other EU offices say they have gathered tax information on about 300 companies, looking for what they deem to be favorable treatment by governments across Europe. While they don’t expect all of those to yield payoffs as hefty as that from their investigation of Ireland and Apple, they say a worrying number require the kind of maximum force that the Maxforce can apply.”We focus on outliers where you’re looking at something that is off the radar screen,” Lienemeyer’s boss, 50-year-old Dutchman Gert-Jan Koopman, who is in charge of state-aid enforcement at the EU, said at a Brussels conference in November. “If you’re paying a fair amount of tax then there is absolutely nothing to worry about.”
The brothers who co-founded online payments service Stripe Inc. have become Ireland’s youngest billionaires after a $150 million funding round valued the business at $9 billion.
Patrick and John Collison own about 29 percent of the business, based on an analysis of filings by private stock market Equidate. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index net worth calculation splits the founder ownership pool equally between the two, giving them each a $1.1 billion stake.
Tim Drinan, a Stripe spokesman, declined to comment on the founders’ ownership stakes.
The startup’s surging valuation is based on its latest funding round disclosed Nov. 25, putting Patrick, 28, and his younger brother John among the likes of Snap Inc. co-founder Evan Spiegel and Uber Inc.’s Travis Kalanick in amassing a ten-figure fortune from a unicorn, a closely held startup valued at $1 billion or more.
Ireland’s youngest billionaires are decades younger than established moguls such as telecoms tycoon Denis O’Brien, 58, or financier Dermot Desmond, 66.
Stripe provides software that lets businesses accept payments online, from sources including credit cards and bitcoin as well as mobile services such as Android Pay and Apple Pay. It also provides tools to help with data security, fraud prevention, accounting and billing.
Founded in 2010 offering mobile payments tools for developers, Stripe’s first clients were small U.S. technology companies. It’s since become a competitor to digital payments giant PayPal Holdings Inc., with clients that include Facebook Inc., Target Corp. and Macy’s Inc.
The latest funding round represented the sale of about 1.6 percent of the company and has made the business twice as valuable as Square Inc., a mobile payments firm that went public a year ago and trades at almost three times revenue. The value of the brothers’ stakes is reduced by 15 percent in the analysis to account for the small stake sold and typical discounts that shares in similar startups attract on the secondary market.
The European Commission has hit Apple with a record-breaking tax penalty of up to €13bn after finding the US tech group enjoyed a quarter of a century of illegal state support from Ireland that distorted competition in Europe. The FT explains the dispute.
(EurActiv) Enda Kenny, chef du gouvernement irlandais, a jugé que si les Nord-irlandais voulaient rester dans l’UE, ils pourraient rejoindre l’Irlande. Une stratégie délicate. Un article de notre partenaire La Tribune.
Pour la première fois depuis le 23 juin, Enda Kenny, le Taoiseach ou premier ministre irlandais, a ouvert la porte à la possibilité d’un référendum de réunification des deux Irlande.
Lors des journées d’été de l’université MacGill de Glenties, dans le comté de Donegal, au nord de la République, où se rassemblent les principaux responsables politiques du pays, Enda Kenny a indiqué que « la discussion et les négociations qui prendront place durant la prochaine période » entre le Royaume-Uni et l’Union européenne « devront prendre en compte, autant qu’elles le devront, le fait que la clause des Accords du Vendredi Saint puisse être engagée ».
Les Accords du Vendredi Saint
Lors de la signature de ces accords, en avril 1998, les gouvernements britannique et irlandais ont « reconnu la légitimité du choix librement consenti par la majorité du peuple nord-irlandais concernant son statut, qu’il préfère continuer à soutenir l’union avec la Grande-Bretagne ou qu’il choisisse une Irlande unie souveraine » (article 1.1).
Dans l’alinéa suivant, il est indiqué que les deux puissances par « accord commun » entre elles pourront demander aux peuples de l’île d’Irlande, « d’exercer leurs droits à l’auto-détermination (…) au nord et au sud concernant une Irlande unie, s’ils le désirent » (article 1.2). Ce droit est reconnu par l’accord et est sujet à l’accord de la majorité du peuple nord-irlandais. Irlande et Royaume-Uni sont tenus reconnaître le résultat de cette consultation (article 1.4).
L’Irlande du nord comme l’Allemagne de l’est ?
C’est à la réalisation de cette clause que le Taoiseach a fait allusion, jugeant que « s’il y a une preuve claire que la majorité du peuple veut quitter le Royaume-Uni et rejoindre la République, cela doit être pris en compte par les discussions ».
Enda Kenny considère donc que les Nord-Irlandais, qui ont voté à 55,6 % pour rester dans l’UE le 23 juin, préféreraient donc demeurer dans cette dernière en rejoignant l’Irlande que de demeurer au sein du Royaume-Uni.
Un peu plus tard, s’expliquant devant des journalistes, le Taoiseach a fait le parallèle entre la situation irlandaise actuelle et celle de la réunification allemande. « De la même façon que l’Allemagne de l’est, après la chute du mur a pu être absorbée par l’Allemagne de l’Ouest et n’a pas eu à passer par un long et tortueux processus d’adhésion », l’Irlande du Nord pourrait ainsi rester dans l’UE en se rattachant à la République d’Irlande. C’est donc une forme de contrat que propose le Taoiseach aux Nord-irlandais : rester dans l’UE en rejoignant la République.
Ces déclarations sont les premières de la part du chef du gouvernement irlandais sur la possibilité d’un référendum de réunification. Mais Enda Kenny ne pouvait éluder plus longtemps la question qui monte dans l’opinion publique. L’Irlande du Nord est, avec l’Écosse, une des deux « nations » du Royaume-Uni qui ont choisi le maintien dans l’UE le 23 juin.
Dès le lendemain du vote, le Sinn Féin a immédiatement réclamé la tenue d’un référendum de réunification de l’île. Le Sinn Féin, longtemps vitrine légale de l’Armée républicaine irlandaise (IRA), a abandonné le soutien à la lutte armée, mais demeure le seul parti à faire de la réunification du pays un point clé de son programme. Il a fait une campagne déterminée contre le Brexit pour éviter l’isolement des Catholiques du nord. Sa voix compte donc.
Pour répondre à cette situation et éviter l’éclatement du gouvernement du nord, Enda Kenny avait proposé à la première ministre nord-irlandaise Arlene Foster la mise en place d’un « forum de toute l’île » pour réfléchir à l’avenir des deux Irlande. Mais Arlene Foster est membre du DUP, le principal parti unioniste qui a fait campagne pour le Brexit. Elle ne veut de discussions qu’au niveau du Royaume-Uni et rejette toute position « irlandaise » de la gestion de l’après-Brexit. Elle a donc repoussé la proposition du Taoiseach.
Dimanche 17 juillet, à l’université MacGill, le chef du principal parti d’opposition de la République, le Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, a soutenu l’idée d’un référendum de réunification « s’il devient clair qu’une majorité veut voir la fin de la partition de l’île » et estimé que le forum panirlandais pouvait voir le jour, malgré le veto du DUP.
Quelle stratégie pour Dublin dans les négociations ?
L’Irlande a demandé à Bruxelles un « traitement spécial » dans le cadre des négociations sur le Brexit compte tenu de sa position économique et politique vis-à-vis du Royaume-Uni. L’exclusion de Londres du marché unique représenterait un vrai défi pour les exportations irlandaises qui sont destinées à 16 % au marché britannique. Certes, la libre circulation entre les deux Irlande est l’objet d’un traité spécifique et que les deux pays sont hors de l’espace Schengen. A priori, la fin de la libre-circulation des personnes entre le Royaume-Uni et l’UE pourrait ne pas concerner l’Irlande. Mais s’il y a exclusion du marché unique, il faudra bien rétablir des points de contrôle à la frontière pour les biens. Theresa May, la nouvelle première ministre britannique, avait évoqué cette possibilité. Mais ce serait fort mal ressenti sur le terrain, notamment par les Catholiques du Nord.
Comment savoir ce que veulent les Nord-irlandais ?
Dublin demandera donc à placer le référendum de réunification sur la table des discussions. Déjà, le leader du Sinn Féin Gerry Adams a demandé un calendrier précis pour le référendum. Micheál Martin et Enda Kenny prétendent ne vouloir organiser de référendum que s’il y a une « tendance claire d’une volonté de réunification ».
Rien ne dit en réalité que le scénario décrit ce mardi par Enda Kenny soit juste. Ce dernier estime que l’attachement à l’UE est plus fort que celui au Royaume-Uni au nord et que le commerce nord-sud est important pour le nord, ce qui assurerait un vote en faveur de la réunification. En réalité, il n’y a là aucune certitude. Le commerce avec la Grande-Bretagne représente le premier débouché des produits de l’Irlande du Nord. Et, comme l’a souligné dimanche Micheál Martin, la seule certitude, que l’on a, c’est qu’une majorité des Nord-irlandais veulent maintenir les frontières ouvertes et un marché unique avec l’UE. Jusqu’où cette volonté ira-t-elle ? Rien n’est sûr.
La question nord-irlandaise sera aussi – si ce n’est davantage – épineuse que la question écossaise au cours des négociations sur le Brexit. L’idée du référendum qui progresse au sud et l’opposition sur le Brexit entre le Sinn Féin et le DUP au nord est lourde de menaces. L’Union européenne devra prendre garde à ne pas jouer avec le feu nord-irlandais pour faire pression sur Londres, comme elle a commencé de le faire avec l’Écosse, car la région reste une poudrière.
(JN) A deslocalização de multinacionais para a Irlanda fez o PIB do país explodir. Há efeitos positivos, mas não só.
Não foi na China, nem na Índia, nem num qualquer pequeno país com uma economia muito volátil. Foi mesmo um país da Zona Euro que conseguiu um crescimento nunca visto no seu produto interno bruto (PIB) no ano passado.
A anterior estimativa já apontava para um crescimento assinalável (7,8%), mas o novo valor deixou os economistas “sem palavras”, como salienta a Bloomberg.
A economia irlandesa está em forte recuperação dos vários anos de recessão que se seguiram ao resgate, mas esta explosão no PIB, como não poderia deixar de ser, tem a ver com factores extraordinários e com a especificidade da economia irlandesa.
A revisão do valor do PIB está relacionada com a contabilização de activos das multinacionais que têm sede no país. A baixa taxa de impostos que a Irlanda cobra às empresas (IRC de 12,5%) tem atraído cada vez mais companhias para o país, o que provocou uma forte subida no valor dos activos que são contabilizados no PIB.
Muitas das empresas alteram a sede para Dublin depois de comprarem pequenas empresas neste país. Foi o que fizeram empresas como a Allergan, Tyco, Medtronic e muitas outras.
“O que aconteceu aqui é que um balanço inteiro de uma empresa que deslocaliza a sede para a Irlanda passa a estar incluído no nosso stock de capital e posição de investimento internacional”, explica Michael Connolly, do instituto de estatística do país, citado pelo Guardian.
Dados de 2014 citados pela Bloomberg mostram que empresas com activos avaliados em 523 mil milhões de euros alteraram a sua sede para a Irlanda nesse ano, passando a pagar impostos neste país. Desde 2008 o produto nacional bruto (PNB) da Irlanda aumentou 7 mil milhões de euros à custa destes processos de relocalização de empresas para o país.
“Temos uma economia muito pequena, e se tivermos um grande aumento de activos, é isto que acontece”, disse Connolly para justificar o crescimento de 26,3% no PIB, ao mesmo tempo que garante que os números são “fiáveis”.
Também a dar um forte impulso à economia está o facto de na Irlanda estarem sedeadas muitas companhias de leasing de aviões e o ano passado ter sido muito forte neste sector.
Em resultado, as exportações mais do que duplicaram. Contudo, outros indicadores que não são afectados por estes movimentos mostram uma evolução bem mais contida da economia irlandesa. O consumo das famílias cresceu 4,5%.
Se à partida ter a economia a registar taxas de crescimento de 26% só pode ser positivo, o ministro das Finanças da Irlanda, Michael Noonan (na foto) já veio lançar alguns alertas. É que o emprego não acompanha o crescimento do PIB e o país tem que efectuar maiores contribuições para o orçamento comunitário, que é feito com base na dimensão do PIB.
Por outro lado, para medir o real estado da economia irlandesa, o PIB tenderá a ser um indicador cada vez menos utilizado. “A Irlanda está a crescer a uma taxa razoável”, em redor de 5,5%, “mas não dramática”, como 26,3%. “Há tantas transacções a acontecer que ninguém compreende”, afirmou à Bloomberg o economista Jim Power, confessando que não sabe ainda o que irá dizer numa palestra sobre a economia irlandesa agendada para esta semana em Londres. Certo é que não dirá que a economia cresceu 26% em 2015, assegurou.
Entre os efeitos positivos desta revisão do PIB está o facto de a Irlanda apresentar agora rácios de endividamento e défice público bem mais reduzidos. A dívida pública é agora inferior a 80% do PIB.
Também esta terça-feira foram revelados os dados do primeiro trimestre de 2016 e a evolução foi contrária, com o PIB a recuar 2,1%. Uma variação que os economistas desvalorizam dada a evolução anómala registada em 2015.
(FT) This week the unlikely combination of Sir John Major and Tony Blair, two prime ministers who made substantial contributions to peace in Northern Ireland, gave matching speeches in Londonderry in which they warned of the dangers for the province of the UK leaving the EU.
They said that British departure risked imposing a “hard border” between Ireland north and south, and could threaten the very basis of the peace process and therefore stability in the province. They predicted that the border would become an external frontier between the EU and the UK, requiring the introduction of frontier controls and customs checks.
Theresa Villiers, an anti-European Conservative and the current Northern Ireland secretary, immediately popped up to say it would not. The existing arrangements would remain in place, she asserted. “There is absolutely no reason,” Ms Villiers said, why the common travel area (CTA) operated by the UK and Ireland “can’t survive a Brexit vote”.
This is the standard practice of the Leave campaign: to assert there will be no problem without having to explain how the problem would be avoided. She is plainly wrong.
If Brexit means leaving the single market, as Leave campaign chiefs have stated, then there would have to be customs barriers between the two parts of Ireland. The Brexit campaign has been clear that they favour a free-trade agreement with the EU like the one Canada made with the bloc in 2014.
There are customs barriers between Canada and the EU and there would have to be between the UK and the EU in these circumstances. You could not possibly have goods flowing backwards and forwards across the 499km border with Ireland unchecked, or else there would be a gaping backdoor to the EU through the province. That would mean that the 200-odd lanes and byways between north and south, which were blocked with enormous concrete slabs during the Troubles for security reasons but opened up when peace came, would have to be closed once again.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement of 2006 were based on the understanding that the border between the two parts of Ireland would become less significant. It may not be an important issue for the ruling Democratic Unionist party, who are, of course, supporters of Brexit. But it was important for nationalists and republicans and the deal depended on a balance of concessions between the two sides. Reimposing the border would threaten the very basis of that agreement.
In addition, Ms Villiers’ suggestion that there would be no border drives a coach and horses through the claims of the Leave campaign that they would close the door to EU immigration. If there is no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, how would you stop immigration? Under her plan, South Armagh would become the conduit for immigrants — from both within the EU and outside — into the UK. And there would be nothing Britain could do about it.
Ms Villiers asserts that everything would be all right because the CTA has existed for almost 100 years and could carry on. The reason the CTA works is that the UK and Ireland entered the EU on the same day and have the same immigration policies. If Britain leaves the EU, however, it faces a new situation, particularly if the rules on immigration are changed to stop EU nationals coming to settle in the UK — which is the very basis of the Brexit campaign.
In those circumstances, Ireland either would have to impose the same rules as the UK and put itself in breach of the free movement of labour within the EU, which would be illegal under the provisions of the single market, or it would have to impose border controls. So Polish plumbers would simply fly to Dublin, make their way up to Belfast and come across to England.
Ms Villiers says it would be fine because we could arrest them after they came in and deport them, but Nigel Lawson, her fellow Brexit campaigner, is more honest: “There would be border controls but not a prevention of genuine Irish coming in.” And junior justice minister Dominic Raab has said: “You couldn’t leave a back door without some kind … of checks there … otherwise everyone with ill will towards this country would go round that route.”
The only way to stop immigration as the Brexiters promise would be to reimpose a border, with all the consequences that would bring for continued peace in Northern Ireland.
Furthermore, we know that one of the outcomes of a Leave vote would be the immediate demand for a referendum on Scottish independence. We also know that an independent Scotland would apply for membership of the EU.
Once that was granted — and as a non-member the UK could not oppose it — Northern Ireland would face a truly paradoxical situation. It would be confronted by customs and immigration barriers to its south and customs and immigration barriers to its east. Northern Irish trade runs through Stranraer in Scotland, not to England, and all the traditional associations of the Ulster unionists have been with their historic homeland in Scotland, not with England. They would face the prospect of those ties being cut off, as well as the dreams and aspirations of the republicans and the nationalists directed at the south. The United Kingdom as we know it would cease to exist.
Little Englanders like Ms Villiers, who purport to be patriots, are in fact preparing the ground for the unravelling of the Union and threatening peace in Northern Ireland at the same time.
The writer was the UK government’s chief negotiator on Northern Ireland from 1997-2007hnnjjkkooyttrrr