Category Archives: Ireland

(BBG) Irish PM Says Threat to Veto Brexit Talks a ‘Big Mistake’

(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) Irish Bankers Tarnished Again as Mortgage Scandal Mounts

(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.

Tracker Loan

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 issue shows “unacceptable failings” by the banks, Lane said.

This week Donohoe is demanding answers from the heads of the five main banks in Ireland – Allied Irish Banks Plc., Bank of Ireland Group Plc, Permanent TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc’s Ulster Bank unit and KBC Group NV’s Irish unit.

Bank Apology

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.

Compensation Claims

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.”

(CNBC) EU is taking Ireland to court for failing to recover taxes from Apple

(CNBC)

European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

Eric Vidal | Reuters
European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

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) Supervisor europeu aplica multa a banco pela primeira vez

(JNO irlandês Permanent TSB foi multado em 2,5 milhões de euros por não ter cumprido os requisitos de liquidez impostos pelo Banco Central Europeu.

Supervisor europeu aplica multa a banco pela primeira vez

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.

+++ M.P.O. (FT) EU prepares for post-Brexit membership for united Ireland

Major Personal Opinion

A suicidal European Union

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…

And others…

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…?

Zilch…

Nothing…!

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

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) Brexit: Uma Irlanda unificada será membro da UE

(JNOs 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.

Brexit: Uma Irlanda unificada será membro da UE

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) Poll sees Irish nationalist vote up in Northern Ireland election

(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.”

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.

(EUobserver) Irish unification on voters’ minds

(EUobserver)The question of whether to hold a post-Brexit referendum on a united Ireland is dominating Thursday’s (2 March) elections in Northern Ireland.

Following the success of the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998, such an issue was thought unlikely to emerge for several generations – if at all.

  • Sectarian murals from 1980s (Photo: Miss Copenhagen)

But the economic and political ramifications of Britain’s decision to leave the EU has reopened the old debate.

Northern Ireland, a part of the UK which voted to remain in the EU last year, is heavily dependent on EU funding for economic and peace-related projects.

Some 87 percent of Northern Irish farmers’ income comes from the EU’s agricultural policy.

Farmers and other exporters also risk the loss of EU markets if Britain crashes out of Europe in an ugly way.

Last week, Irish leader Enda Kenny raised the issue at a press conference with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Kenny called for any Brexit deal to include a provision that allowed Northern Ireland to unify with the Irish republic “whenever that might occur”.

He said unification would make Northern Ireland part of the EU once more.

That kind of deal would be heavily opposed by Northern Ireland’s unionists, however.

The ruling Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) campaigned to leave the EU last year and see Brexit as a promise of lasting British sovereignty.

Kenny “should have stayed out of it”, Tom Elliot, a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), a DUP ally, told EUobserver.

Unionists “won’t contemplate any sentence about Northern Ireland” returning to the EU or Ireland, he said.

Northern Ireland’s system provides for the nationalist and unionist communities to share power by each holding the posts of first minister or deputy first minister.

Since January 2016, DUP’s Arlene Foster was first minister, with Martin McGuinness, from the republican Sinn Fein party, as deputy.

There was political turbulence in the run-up to the vote on other issues as well.

The DUP lost face in a heating fiasco in which a flawed renewable energy project cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds.

A DUP decision to pull £50,000 (€58,500) of funding for Irish language teaching caused a row.

The DUP’s leader, Foster, has also been accused of scare tactics in warning of the “threat” of Sinn Fein becoming the largest party and initiating a vote on Northern Ireland’s status.

The UUP’s Elliot told EUobserver that voters appeared to be “turned off” by the elections when he canvassed from door to door.

But the unionist party is expected to remain the largest one in parliament, even if its support goes down.

Turning to the upcoming Brexit talks, Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy called for EU negotiators, such as French politician Michel Barnier, to “bat” for the people of Northern Ireland.

He told EUobserver that under Northern Ireland’s peace accords everybody had the right to claim Irish citizenship if they wanted.

“Everyone in the north is effectively an EU citizen, but they’re being dragged out of the EU against their wishes”, he said.

He said that if Northern Ireland did not get a “special status” in the Brexit deal then there would be a “demand for an Irish unity poll”.

The Sinn Fein politician said the EU “understood” what might happen if Brexit led to the reimposition of a hard border between Ireland and Norther Ireland.

According to Aidan Regan, a scholar of international relations at Dublin City University, said a border policed by British officers would serve as “a reminder” of Irish separation.

He told EUobserver that sectarian identities in the region were “still as strong as they were in the 1980s” at the height of The Troubles.

(IBT) EU misinterpreted laws and interfered with national sovereignty in Apple tax decision, says Ireland

(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 Inside Story of Apple’s $14 Billion Tax Bill

(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.

Michael Noonan, Ireland's finance minister, poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview in Dublin, Ireland, on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. Noonan on Tuesday vowed to fight a European Commission ruling that could force the world's richest company to pay it at least 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion), more than twice the country's entire 2015 corporate tax take and equivalent to about $3,000 for every man, woman and child. Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
Ireland’s finance minister Michael Noonan.
Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

“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.

The Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington.
The Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington.
Photographer: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

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.

Madou Tower in Brussels.
Madou Tower in Brussels.
Photographer: Alison Cornford-Matheson/Getty Images

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.

European Union competition chief Margrethe Vestager.

European Union competition chief Margrethe Vestager.

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

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.”

(BBG) Stripe Founders Are Youngest Irish Billionaires With Funding

(BBG)

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.

John Collison

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

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.

Patrick Collison

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

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.

(EurActiv) Le premier ministre irlandais évoque un référendum de réunification

(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.

Nouvelle stratégie

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) É mesmo verdade. PIB da Irlanda cresceu 26,3% em 2015

(JNA 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.

O PIB da Irlanda registou uma taxa de crescimento de 26,3% no ano passado, de acordo com os valores revistos que foram anunciados esta terça-feira, 12 de Julho, pelo instituto de estatística do país que foi alvo de um resgate em 2010.

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.

+++ V.I. (FT) Brexit threatens two decades of peace in Northern Ireland

(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

+++ (BBG) Russian Bank Collapse Shines Light on Risks in Irish Shadows

(BBG – click to see) Based in a drab office building in Dublin down the road from a pub frequented by Prime Minister Enda Kenny, VPB Funding Ltd. had no employees but one function: selling bonds. In 2013, it issued $225 million of unsecured notes.

The proceeds of that sale were funneled to Vneshprombank Ltd., a Moscow lender whose license was revoked last month when Russian authorities accused management of pilfering its assets and falsifying accounts. VPB’s notes have plunged to pennies on the dollar.

The entanglement of an obscure Dublin firm in the woes of a lender 2,000 miles away shows why Irish officials have begun shining a light on special purpose vehicles like VPB, unregulated entities that borrow on behalf of corporations throughout the world. The Irish capital, home of Europe’s costliest banking meltdown, remains a hub for the sort of opaque operations that contributed to the global financial crisis, threatening risks that policy makers are seeking to stamp out.

“There’s concern that Irish SPVs are exporting risk to other financial systems around the world and could have contagion effects,’’ said Shaen Corbet, a lecturer in finance at Dublin City University.

SPVs fall under the heading of shadow banking — lending by entities outside the traditional banking industry. Ireland ranks with China as the biggest center for nonbank finance firms after the U.S. and the U.K., with 2.3 trillion euros ($2.6 trillion) of assets, based on a survey by the Financial Stability Board, a group of global regulators. The nation’s shadow-banking system — including hedge funds, mutual funds and insurers — is more than 10 times the size of the economy.

While most of the network falls under the purview of authorities in Ireland or elsewhere, unregulated vehicles — including SPVs — account for an estimated half a trillion euros, the survey found.

Gareth Murphy, who heads the Irish central bank’s markets-supervision unit, said authorities must increase cooperation in circumstances where a Dublin-based SPV, for example, is linked to “a German bank or a French bank which is prudentially regulated elsewhere.”

“Monitoring of the full financial landscape wasn’t good enough,’’ Murphy, who formerly worked at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Bank of England, said in an interview. “One of the lessons of the financial crisis is that a narrow, inwardly focused approach to the pursuit of one’s regulatory mandate really doesn’t work because of the global nature of financial services.”

Gathering Data

The scenario has played out before. In 2007, Germany’s Landesbank Sachsen Girozentrale needed a 17 billion-euro emergency credit line from a group of German banks after its Dublin-based SPVs, loaded with toxic assets, were unable to pay their debts.

Irish authorities have begun amassing data on SPVs, and joined last year in an annual survey of shadow banking by the FSB, a group of regulators that monitors the global financial system. The report examined 26 jurisdictions, though some countries with large shadow-finance operations, such as Luxembourg, didn’t participate.

“It makes sense for the central bank to look for that kind of information just to get an idea of the scale of what’s happening,” said Enda Faughnan, a Dublin-based partner at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which helps set up the vehicles.

Cross-Border Risks

The collapse of Vneshprombank encapsulates some of the cross-border risks the central bank is seeking to identify. The lender, which held billions of rubles in deposits for some of Russia’s biggest state companies, including oil producer Rosneft OJSC and pipeline operator Transneft OJSC, set up VPB Funding to raise cash for “general corporate purposes’’ and to “diversify its sources of funding,’’ a prospectus shows.

Last year, Russian regulators found a 187 billion-ruble ($2.5 billion) hole in Vneshprombank’s balance sheet. Former managers may have stripped the bank’s assets for investments in real estate, expensive vehicles and financial instruments, Russia’s central bank said in a Jan. 21 statement. The lender remains under administration by the central bank and a liquidation will follow, said a spokeswoman for Russia’s Deposit Insurance Agency who declined to comment further.

Ireland’s central bank said all prospectuses are subject to a “robust approval process,” and that the VPB notes were issued before the U.S. and European Union imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014. The sale was restricted to institutional investors and use of the proceeds was “clearly disclosed,” it said.

VPB Funding’s notes were quoted at 13 cents on the dollar as of Jan. 19, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Hidden Links

Shadow-banking assets have swelled since the financial crisis, and not just in Ireland. Globally, nonbank firms that extend credit had an estimated $36 trillion of assets at the end of 2014, after climbing by an average $1.3 trillion a year since 2011, according to the FSB. Regulators, concerned that banks may use shadow lending to evade new rules and wary that risks could build up unseen, are trying to map the size of the industry and develop rules for it.

Until late 2015, Irish SPVs had no obligation to alert the central bank to their presence in Dublin or explain their purpose, except where their activities touched on regulated areas.

Officials face a challenge in monitoring the SPVs because of the “complexity and opaqueness of their transactions,’’ Ireland’s central bank said in a report last July. The biggest borrowers through these vehicles are in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Russia and the Netherlands, according to the report.

Shadow Mapping

There are about 2,100 companies in Ireland set up under the legislation that governs SPVs, including some 1,400 since 2010, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said in parliament last month. Even tax authorities don’t know how many assets these firms hold, he said.

“Risks may be building up in the part of the shadow-banking sector for which a statistical breakdown is not readily available,” the European Central Bank, the euro-area’s banking supervisor, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Under Irish law, the entities are structured so that transactions deliver little or no taxable profit. Their shares are held by charitable trusts, which can keep their assets and liabilities off the balance sheets of the parties that use them. Law firms typically set up the trusts and pass along a portion of the fees they generate to charities, according to lawyers who structure them.

Putin’s Pals

VPB Funding is registered at the address of Cafico International, an Irish company that focuses on setting up SPVs for banks, airlines and aircraft-operating lessors. Cafico Managing Director Rodney O’Rourke didn’t respond to calls, emails and a visit to his offices seeking comment.

Vneshprombank wasn’t alone in making the trip to Dublin. Moscow-based UralSib Bank Ltd., which faced bankruptcy last year until the state orchestrated a takeover by an ally of President Vladimir Putin, is among Russian firms with ties to SPVs, Irish company filings show.

In 2013, another SPV lent $1 billion to Sibur Holding, a chemicals company part-owned by Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire subject to U.S. sanctions, and Kirill Shamalov, who a family acquaintance said last year is Putin’s son-in-law. (Putin has not confirmed the relationship.) Other entities have ties to Russian oil-drilling firms, energy companies, the country’s national energy grid and Domodedovo Airport in Moscow, filings show.

These are the kinds of cross-border links Ireland’s central bank should be worried about, said Corbet, a former commodities trader.

“I’d be concerned about the reputational, financial and contagion risks that would be associated should more Russian banks with SPVs in Ireland meet the same fate as Vneshprombank,’’ he said. “Without data, the central bank is in the dark.’’

+++ O.P. (JN) Primeiro-ministro irlandês: “Não queremos ser como Portugal”

O.P.

…Pudera…

…Com o triste espetáculo que este Governo está a dar…

…E a imagem de Portugal que daí resulta…

…Com contas que não batem certo, e uma falta de preparação evidente…

…Um escândalo e uma vergonha!…

   Disse.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(Negócios) É a apontar para o caso português que o primeiro-ministro irlandês faz campanha para renovar o seu mandato. As eleições são a 26 de Fevereiro.

Desta vez foi o primeiro-ministro irlandês, Enda Kenny, que usou Portugal para alertar para o que acredita ser o perigo da instabilidade. A Irlanda terá eleições a 26 de Fevereiro.

Citado pela Bloomberg, Enda Kenny diz que Portugal está a pagar um preço “horrendo” pela instabilidade política, a propósito da subida da taxa de juro na dívida pública a 10 anos que ultrapassou os 4% na última semana. “Não queremos ser como Portugal”, terá declarado.

E, por isso, acrescentou: a recuperação económica irlandesa “não deve ser tomada como garantida”, disse aos jornalistas em Dublin este domingo, 14 de Fevereiro, acrescentando que a coligação irlandesa, que governa o país, “é clara e estável”. A economia irlandesa cresceu, no terceiro trimestre (ainda não há dados do quarto período), 6,8% face ao trimestre homólogo.

A campanha eleitoral já arrancou na Irlanda e Kenny quer renovar o mandato para permanecer como primeiro-ministro. O seu partido Fine Gael (conservador-liberal) está coligado com o Partido Trabalhista, que, juntos, receberam 55% dos votos nas eleições de 2011.

A última sondagem da Red C para as eleições deste ano, de acordo com a Bloomberg, dá 36% dos votos a esta aliança, aquém dos 44% necessários para garantir a eleição, segundo estimativas do economista Philip O’ Sullivan, citado pela mesma agência. E Kenny já afastou “em qualquer circunstância” um cenário de aliança com o Fianna Fail, que na sondagem referida aparecia com 18%.

A legislatura de Enda Kenny foi marcada pela intervenção da troika. Aliás há já vários olhares sobre Irlanda, tendo em conta o que aconteceu em Portugal, mas também em Espanha que, embora não tenha sido resgatada financeiramente, sofreu uma crise económica. E o desfecho nas eleições tanto em Portugal como em Espanha acabou por ser o mesmo. Os partidos no poder – em Portugal liderado pelo PSD e em Espanha pelo PP – venceram as eleições, mas sem maioria. No caso português a coligação PSD-CDS acabou mesmo por cair, com a rejeição do seu programa de Governo, acabando António Costa, líder do PS, assumido a posição de primeiro-ministro. E Espanha ainda não tem Governo, estando agora nas mãos de Pedro Sánchez, líder do PSOE, garantir a aprovação da sua tentativa de investidura, depois da recusa de Rajoy.

Irlanda é, por estes dias, por isso, foco de vários olhares, até dos investidores. “As eleições de 2015 no sul da Europa produziram surpresas significativas e uma situação política confusa”, assumiu, anteriormente, Jens Peter Sorensen, analista do Danske Bank. “As eleições na Irlanda podem produzir um resultado semelhante”, contribuindo para uma volatilidade “de curto prazo” nas obrigações do tesouro do país. Na sexta-feira, as taxas de juro da dívida pública irlandesa, a 10 anos, estavam, no mercado secundário, a transaccionar a 1,037%.

O Fine Gael, partido do primeiro-ministro, lançou este domingo, 14 de Fevereiro, o seu manifesto eleitoral, no qual promete continuar o caminho da recuperação económica, com um plano no qual promete até 2022 – o ano do 100.º aniversário da nação – que haja condições na Irlanda para que haja disponibilidade de um emprego para quem queira um; promete, ainda, dar às famílias os apoios necessários para escaparem a uma situação de pobreza; permitir o regresso a pelo menos 70 mil pessoas que tiveram de sair do país por causa da crise; e dar a cada criança oportunidades iguais, asseguran-lhes saúde, educação e serviços familiares.

(Euractiv) Irish PM calls election for 26 February

(Euractiv – click to see) Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Wednesday (3 February) called parliamentary elections for 26 February in a small poll that could see disillusioned voters turn away from established parties to back political mavericks.

“I am seeking a dissolution of Dail Eireann (parliament) today with the election to be held on February 26th,” Kenny tweeted before going to President Michael Higgins for formal authorisation.

The two rival centre-right parties that have taken turns leading Irish governments since 1932, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, have seen their combined dominance among voters recede as support for independent politicians, new parties and anti-austerity groups has risen.

The eurozone nation has the highest economic growth rate in the European Union – 7.0 percent in the first nine months of last year – but many voters are disillusioned after years of sacrifices and a financial crisis that has discredited Ireland’s elite.

Polls indicate the current coalition government led by Fine Gael’s Kenny with junior centre-left party Labour will struggle to gain the minimum 80 seats required to form a majority for a second term.

The vote follows an election in Portugal that returned a fragile ruling alliance, and political deadlock in Spain since a December election returned no clear majority that has fuelled fears of risks to the eurozone countries’ economic recovery.

Kenny and Labour leader Joan Burton insist that a vote for their parties is the only way to ensure “stability” and protect economic growth.

But both parties, particularly Labour, have seen an ebb in support in polls.

This could mean Kenny cobbling together a coalition with an assortment of small parties and independent politicians, leading a minority government, or holding another election.

Some commentators have even raised the idea of an unprecedented pact between the old adversaries Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, whose differences date back to the opposing sides of the 1920s Irish Civil War.

“Even though Election 2016 will deliver the most anti-establishment and pro-independent results ever, a Fine Gael and Fianna Fail coalition is still the most likely outcome,” Noel Whelan, a former Fianna Fail advisor, said in a blog for betting company Paddy Power.

“Government doesn’t come more party-dominated or more establishment than that!”

Real earthquake election

Ireland’s last general election in 2011 delivered an earthquake result in which voters stripped Fianna Fail, long Ireland’s largest party, of all but a nub of their seats in response to a brutal property crash and recession on their watch.

Since then, the left-wing Sinn Fein party, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, has risen to become one of the most popular parties in opinion polls as it has positioned itself as an anti-austerity force.

Newly-formed groups that could benefit at the expense of traditional parties range from the left-wing Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit group, to the Social Democrats, to right-leaning Renua Ireland.

Karen Green, a 45-year-old hospital worker from Crumlin in Dublin, said she had been politicised by the fight against new water charges that became a rally point for anti-austerity groups, sparking huge protests and collective refusals to pay.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m in my forties and I’ve seen two recessions and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Green said.

She now hopes to help left-wing candidates “shake up” Ireland’s lower house, Dail Eireann.

Much will depend on whether the trends indicated in polls are borne out, if support for Sinn Fein translates into seats, how badly Labour fares and whether voters might quietly return to Fianna Fail under leader Micheal Martin.

According to Queen’s University Belfast politics lecturer Muiris MacCarthaigh, 2016 could be Ireland’s real “earthquake” election.

“A plethora of small parties, alliances and independents have now emerged across the political spectrum,” MacCarthaigh wrote in an analysis.

“Agreeing a common programme for government is likely to take a lot longer than the week it took in 2011, and the potential that a diverse coalition of interests may not serve a five-year term is a distinct possibility,” he said.

+++ (BBG) Don’t Forget the Irish When Looking at New Risks in Euro Region

(BBG – click to see) Ireland gets to decide on its next government as early as next month, and if elections in other countries once at the heart of the European debt crisis are anything to go by, investors should be wary.

Portugal’s vote on Oct. 4 produced an inconclusive result, leading to weeks of brokering before Socialist leader Antonio Costatook power with promises to put the brakes on austerity measures. Bond yields have jumped to the highest in six months since then. In Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy lost his majority last month after years of belt-tightening and the country still doesn’t have a new government.

Ireland is another European electorate jaded by budget cuts. Polls indicate that Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s ruling coalition will struggle to win a majority, though there’s no clear alternative. The country, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s model for economic recovery, saw its 10-year bond yields sink below 1 percent this month. But banks and brokers are already sounding warnings.

“The ballot is the most important potential flash-point of the year,” said Dermot O’Leary, economist at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin. “Investors got caught out by the inconclusive result in Spain, and so there is more focus now on Ireland.”

With investors also spooked by Portugal’s move to imposes losseson some investors in what’s left of a failed bank, the nation’s sovereign securities have been the worst performers in the euro zone this year after Greek debt.

Yields on 10-year Portuguese bonds were above 3 percent last week, up as much as 80 basis points since the election. Spain’s, by contrast, were little changed compared with before an election on Dec. 20, at 1.68 percent. Ireland pays less to borrow than any of the so-called peripheral euro nations. Its 10-year bond yields were at 1.08 percent at the end of last week, looking more like France or Belgium than a riskier credit.

‘Hard Work’

Kenny, 64, has yet to call the Irish vote, but it must be held by early April and there are some expectations he will name the date next week. All the major parties are promising to relax the austerity that helped Ireland regain in its economic sovereignty, a pledge that resonated in Portugal and Spain and split the electorate.

“Ireland’s strategy in recent years has been to under-promise and over-deliver on the budgetary front,” said Alan McQuaid, an economist at Merrion Capital in Dublin. “The last thing the country needs right now is some bad political mis-management, which could jeopardize all the hard work.”

Since Kenny swept to power in 2011 after the country was forced to seek an international bailout just months earlier, Ireland’s recovery was underpinned by spending cuts and tax increases equivalent to about a fifth of the economy while the bond market rallied also with the help of the ECB’s monetary stimulus.

Combined support for Kenny’s Fine Gael-Labour alliance dropped two percentage points in January to 39 percent, the Sunday Business Post said, citing a Red C poll. To win a second term, it needs to win about 44 percent, according to Philip O’Sullivan, an economist at Investec Plc in Dublin. The two parties together won 55 percent in 2011.

Who Else?

The problem for the opposition, and perhaps investors, is no clear alternative has emerged to Kenny’s coalition.

Support for Fianna Fail, once one of Europe’s most successful parties at the ballot box, is hovering at about 20 percent. Its leadership has so far ruled out governing with Kenny or Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army that’s turned into an anti-austerity crusader and led the polls as recently as a year ago.

“The general elections in southern Europe in 2015 produced some significant surprises and a muddled political situation,” Jens Peter Sorensen, chief analyst at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen, said in a note to clients last week. “The upcoming election in Ireland could produce a similar result.” It could contribute to “short-lived” volatility in Irish government bonds, he said.

(FT) Spain and Ireland post steep falls in joblessness

(FT)

©AP

Mariano Rajoy addresses supporters after the election in December

The number of registered unemployed workers in Spain has seen the biggest drop for at least a decade while joblessness in Ireland has hit its lowest level since 2008, when the country was about to enter a prolonged financial crisis.

The Spanish figures provide a boost to the economic record of acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he tries to form a government following an inconclusive general election.

Mr Rajoy, whose centre-right Popular Party emerged as the largest party from last month’s ballot but lost its parliamentary majority, said on Tuesday it was essential to maintain the economic policies that had brought about a sharp drop in joblessness since he took office four years ago.

Labour ministry figures published on Tuesday showed 354,203 fewer workers registered as being unemployed in 2015 — the third consecutive annual fall in the official jobless figure and the biggest decline to date in the current statistical series that begun in 1996.

The labour ministry does not publish a figure for the unemployment rate. But Spain’s INE statistics office put it 21.2 per cent at the end of the third quarter. This remains one of the highest levels in the developed world, but a fall from 23.7 per cent in 2014.

The number of workers registering with social security services — a measure of new hiring — rose by 85,314 in December, the biggest monthly increase on record, the labour ministry said.

The improved jobless figures come shortly after the Bank of Spain raised its forecasts for economic growth to 3.2 per cent in 2015 and 2.8 per cent this year, up from 3.1 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively in its previous projections.

In an interview with Spain’s COPE radio on Tuesday, Mr Rajoy suggested a three-party coalition between the PP, the main opposition Socialists and the pro-market Ciudadanos party as the best solution to the country’s political stalemate that would provide stability and ensure a continuing economic recovery.

When the PP took office in December 2011, unemployment was increasing at a rate of 7.9 per cent a year, Mr Rajoy said. “Now, four years later it’s dropping at an annual rate of 8 per cent.”

chart: Spain unemployment

Meanwhile, the rapid fall in the Irish jobless rate from a high of more than 15 per cent in 2012 is likely to be hailed by the government as further evidence that its economic policies are working ahead of a general election due in the early spring. It has begun using record tax receipts to begin reversing some of the harshest austerity measures, which included tax hikes and spending cuts.

The unemployment rate in December was 8.8 per cent, down from 10.2 per cent at the end of 2014.

The fall was particularly notable in 2015, with a string of big job-creation announcements at their Irish operations by companies such as Apple, LinkedIn and a number of pharmaceutical companies. The tourism and services sectors are also creating new jobs as the Irish crisis recedes. The Irish economy is likely to have grown by 7 per cent in 2015.

The laggard is the construction sector, which has yet to recover from the bursting of a property-price bubble that brought the industry to its knees. Economists said any pick-up in construction would see the unemployment rate fall further in 2016.Spain-and-Ireland-post-steep-falls-in-joblessness-FT