Representation in Ireland

EU

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European Commission Representation in Ireland issued today the latest annual Eurobarometer report for Ireland.

Compared to other EU Member States, the report finds that Irish people have the most positive image of the EU (64%); are the most satisfied with how democracy works in the EU (75%); and are the most optimistic about the EU's future (86%).

05/03/2019

Commenting on the report, Gerry Kiely, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland said: "Today's report captures Ireland's strong support for the European Union. This is fully reciprocated, as is evident from the European Union's unwavering support for Irish interests in the Brexit negotiations. With the European Parliament elections looming in May, I hope that Irish support for the European Union will translate into a very healthy voter turnout. Young people in Ireland have a poor record in voting in the European elections. Everyone should have a say on who will influence their future by getting out and voting."

Findings in the report include:

  • 66% of Irish people say they feel attached to the EU, the highest proportion since May 2007. Attachment to the EU has increased by 24-points since 2013. However, attachment can be seen as relatively soft, with most people saying they feel ‘fairly attached’ rather than ‘very attached.’
  • Only 8% per cent of Irish people declare having a negative image of the EU. 64% of Irish people have a positive image of the EU, the highest figure for any Member State and well above the EU average of 43%. 64% is the highest level of positivity recorded in Ireland since 2008.
  • As of November 2018, 85% of Irish citizens report feeling some semblance of EU citizenship. While a sense of EU citizenship among Irish people is not new, it has increased by 18-points over the past five years. Ireland now ranks third among Member States, just behind Luxembourg (89 %) and Germany (86 %), and above the EU average on this metric, which currently stands at 71 %.
  • Irish people are the most satisfied with how democracy works in the EU, with 75% expressing satisfaction. This is substantially above the EU average of 50%.
  • At 76 %, Ireland has the highest proportion of people in any Member State feeling that their interests are well taken account of in the EU. This is an increase of 17-points in the past two years and coincides with the negotiations between the EU and the British government on Brexit. This score represents the highest proportion of Irish citizens feeling this way since this data was first collected in 2007.
  • 50% of Irish citizens profess to have trust in the EU, above the EU average of 42%. Distrust of the EU stands at 38%.
  • Ireland is the most optimistic EU country about the future of the EU. 86% of Irish people say they are optimistic, the highest number of people saying this ever. Moreover, optimism has been steadily growing in recent years, with a 32-point increase since 2013. The EU average is 58%
  • 7 in 10 Irish people (70%) disagree with the notion that Ireland could best face the future outside of the EU. Only one in four (25%) believe that Ireland would do better outside the EU.

Further information

The Irish national report is available here.

The Standard Eurobarometer 90 report plus country factsheets and annexes is available here.

The list of winners of the 'Aistritheoirí Óga 2018' (young translators) contest was announced today. Five secondary school students made the list - one from each of the four provinces in Ireland, one who was selected for their excellent translation from German to Irish, and one overall winner (for the best translation overall). This year's winners come from Galway, Kerry, Dublin, Derry and Meath.

Speaking about this year's contest, Aislínn McCrory, Head of the Irish Language Unit at the European Commission, said that 'the standard of the winning translations is a good sign for the future of Irish translation.'

11/02/2019

The Contest

This is the second edition of 'Aistritheoirí Óga', a now annual translation contest organised jointly by the European Commission and the Irish Government. The contest has three goals: to promote a high standard of Irish, encourage multilingualism among secondary school students and encourage their interest in linguistic professions.  21 schools took part in this year's contest.

There are six categories in the competition: a prize for the best translation from each province, an overall prize for the best translation across the island of Ireland, and a prize for the best translation from a language other than English.

The list of 2018 winners:

The best translation across the island of Ireland:
Domhnall Ó Braonáin            Coláiste Cholmcille, Co. na Gaillimhe

The best translation (English to Irish) from Connacht
Domhnall Ó Braonáin            Coláiste Cholmcille, Co. na Gaillimhe

The best translation (English to Irish) from Leinster
Rachel Ní Ghruagáin             Coláiste Íosagáin, Baile Átha Cliath

The best translation (English to Irish) from Munster
Hannah Ní Shearcaigh          Coláiste Íde, Co. Chiarraí

The best translation from (English to Irish) Ulster
Cliodhna Ní Mhianáin            Gaelcholáiste Dhoire

The best translation from a language other than English
Zoya Nic Eibhearaird            Coláiste Pobail Ráth Cairn, Co. na Mí
(translation from German to Irish).

The background to the competition

The first edition of the contest was launched in October 2017 and was open to pupils attending Irish language schools who were at least 15 years of age.

The competition is part of a wider effort to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of the status of the Irish language as an official language of the European Union. Council Regulation 2015/2264 laid down that the Irish language will have full status as an official language of the European Union by 2022 and that all the legislation which is enacted in the Union will be translated into Irish from that date, as is already the case for the other 23 official languages. For that reason, the EU institutions are looking for more Irish-language staff to do the work necessary to fulfil the obligations arising from the full status granted to Irish.

Further information

Seán Kyne TD, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, will present the winners with their prizes at a ceremony in Dublin on Monday, 11th of March.

If you need more information, please contact Eimear Ní Bhroin: eimear.ni-bhroin@ec.europa.eu or 087 9814342.

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The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Japan enters into force on 1 February 2019. Businesses and consumers across Europe and in Japan can now take advantage of the largest open trade zone in the world.

The Economic Partnership Agreement removes the vast majority of the €1 billion of duties paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan. Once the agreement is fully implemented, Japan will have scrapped customs duties on 97% of goods imported from the EU. 

31/01/2019

The agreement also removes a number of long-standing non-tariff barriers, for example by endorsing international standards on cars. It will also break down barriers for key EU food and drink exporters to 127 million Japanese consumers and will increase export opportunities in a range of other sectors. Annual trade between the EU and Japan could increase by nearly €36 billion once the agreement is implemented in full.

The EU and Japan have agreed to set ambitious standards on sustainable development, and the text includes for the first time a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Trade, said: "This agreement has it all: it scraps tariffs and contributes to the global rulebook, whilst at the same time demonstrating to the world that we both remain convinced by the benefits of open trade. As of 1 February, European companies will benefit from removed tariffs and simplified customs procedures. Our manufacturers, our service providers, our tech start-ups and our farmers all have something to celebrate. I am also proud that we have locked in our Paris climate deal commitments into a trade agreement for the first time, as well as setting high standards for workers' rights and consumer protection. The stage is set for a significant boost in trade between us, which in turn creates jobs and lowers prices. It is now up to businesses and individuals to make the very most out of these new trade opportunities. We also count on all EU Member States to spread this message far and wide."

The key parts of the Economic Partnership Agreement

With regards to agricultural exports from the EU, the agreement will, in particular:

  • scrap Japanese duties on many cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar (which currently are at 29.8%) as well as on wine exports (currently at 15% on average);
  • allow the EU to increase its beef exports to Japan substantially, while on pork there will be duty-free trade in processed meat and almost duty-free trade for fresh meat;
  • ensure the protection in Japan of more than 200 high-quality European agricultural products, so called Geographical Indications (GIs), and the protection of a selection of Japanese GIs in the EU.

The agreement also secures the opening of services markets, in particular financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications and transport. It furthermore:

  • facilitates to EU companies access to the procurement markets of 54 large Japanese cities, and removes obstacles to procurement in the economically important railway sector at national level;
  • addresses specific sensitivities in the EU, for instance in the automotive sector, with transition periods of up to 7 years before customs duties are eliminated.

The agreement also includes a comprehensive chapter on trade and sustainable development; includes specific elements to simplify for small and medium-sized businesses; sets very high standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection; strengthens EU and Japan's commitments on sustainable development and climate change and fully safeguards public services.

Concerning data protection, the EU and Japan adopted decisions on 23 January of this year to allow personal data to flow freely and safely between the two partners. They agreed to recognise each other's data protection systems as 'equivalent', which will create the world's largest area of safe data flows.

As of 1 February, a large part of another agreement – the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Japan – also applies on a provisional basis.  This Agreement, which was signed in July of last year together with the Economic Partnership Agreement, is the first-ever bilateral framework agreement between the EU and Japan and strengthens the overall partnership by providing an overarching framework for enhanced political and sectoral cooperation and joint actions on issues of common interest, including on regional and global challenges. The Agreement will enter into force once it has been ratified by all EU Member States.

Next steps

The Economic Partnership Agreement is now in force. To take stock of the initial months of implementation, the first EU-Japan committee meeting will be convened in April 2019 in Brussels.
On the parallel issue of investment protection, negotiations with Japan continue on standards and investment protection dispute resolution, with a meeting of Chief Negotiators scheduled for March. The firm commitment on both sides is to reach convergence in the investment protection negotiations as soon as possible, in light of their shared commitment to a stable and secure investment environment in Europe and Japan.

For more information

MEMO on the Economic Partnership Agreement

Dedicated website including:

Factsheet on the Strategic Partnership Agreement

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The first results of the Autumn 2018 Eurobarometer survey shows that Irish people continue to be the most likely to have a positive image of the EU at 64% (unchanged since the last two surveys in spring 2018 and autumn 2017).  Across the EU, the share of respondents who have a positive image has risen in 17 member states since the spring 2018 survey, including the UK where it is up 9 percentage points to 43%.  This is the same as the EU average, which is up 3 points since the spring.

Meanwhile the share of Irish people (8%) with a negative image of the EU is the second lowest in the EU after Lithuania at 6%. The EU average is 20%.

21/12/2018

The survey also shows that:

  • 74% (down 5 percentage points since the previous survey) of Irish people think the situation of the national economy is good, while 23% think it is bad (up 4 percentage points). This is the 8th highest share in the EU where on average 49% of people thought the situation of their national economy was good (unchanged since the previous survey). People in Malta (95%) were the most likely to think the situation of their national economy was good whilst those in Greece were the least likely (6%).
  • 67% of Irish people think the situation of the European economy is good, 4th highest in the EU after Lithuania (73%), Austria (70%) and Poland (70%). The EU average was 49% dropping to 26% in France.
  • Support for the Euro was fourth highest in Ireland at 84% (unchanged since the previous survey), after Slovenia (86%), Luxembourg and Estonia (both 85%). The EU average was 62%, lowest in Czechia (21%) and the UK (28%).
  • Irish respondents (85%, unchanged) are the third most likely to feel they are EU citizens after Luxembourg (89%) and Germany (86%). The EU average was 71% dropping to 51% in Bulgaria and 52% in Greece.
  • When asked what are the three most important issues facing the EU at the moment, Irish people selected immigration (32%), terrorism and climate change (both 27%). On average across the EU, the top three issues selected were: immigration (40%), terrorism (20%) and the state of Member States’ public finances (19%).
  • The top three national concerns for Irish people were: housing (60%, highest in the EU), health and social security (40%) and the cost of living (20%). The top national concerns at EU level were: unemployment (23%), cost of living and immigration (both 21%).
  • Trust in the EU continues to be above average in Ireland at 50% (down 4 percentage points since the previous survey). The EU average was 42% ranging from 65% in Lithuania to 26% in Greece.

The “Autumn 2018 Standard Eurobarometer” (EB 90) was conducted through face-to-face interviews between 8 and 22 November 2018. In Ireland, 1004 people were interviewed for the survey by Behaviour & Attitudes.

Download the survey here

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The EU and UK negotiators have agreed in full on the terms of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Protocol includes all the provisions on how the so-called “backstop” solution for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would work. This forms part of the overall Withdrawal Agreement and will apply unless and until it is superseded, in whole or in part, by any subsequent agreement. Both the EU and the UK will use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify a subsequent agreement by 1 July 2020.

15/11/2018

Questions & Answers

What has been agreed on Ireland and Northern Ireland?

The EU and UK negotiators have agreed in full on the terms of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Protocol includes all the provisions on how the so-called “backstop” solution for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would work. This forms part of the overall Withdrawal Agreement and will apply unless and until it is superseded, in whole or in part, by any subsequent agreement. Both the EU and the UK will use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify a subsequent agreement by 1 July 2020.

As part of the Protocol, a single EU-UK customs territory is established from the end of the transition period until the future relationship becomes applicable. Northern Ireland will therefore remain part of the same customs territory as the rest of the UK with no tariffs, quotas, or checks on rules of origin between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK[1].

The Protocol also sets out the UK's commitment to no diminution of rights as set out in the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement 1998, and provides for the continuation of the Common Travel Area arrangements between Ireland and the United Kingdom. It ensures that the necessary conditions for continued North-South cooperation are maintained, and preserves the Single Electricity Market on the island of Ireland.

This agreement addresses in full the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. It is the insurance policy that guarantees that, whatever the circumstances, there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and it will protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement 1998 in all its dimensions, North-South cooperation, and the all-island economy.

How will the backstop work?

If an agreement on the future EU-UK relationship is not applicable by 31 December 2020, the EU and the UK have agreed that a backstop solution will apply until such a time as a subsequent agreement is in place.

Alternatively, the UK may, before 1 July 2020, request an extension of the transition period. Such a request would be dealt with under article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement and must therefore be agreed by the Joint Committee.

In the scenario where the "backstop solution" would apply, this would mean the following in practice:

  • There will be a single EU-UK customs territory. This will avoid the need for tariffs, quotas or checks on rules of origin between the EU and the UK.
  • The EU and the UK have agreed on a set of measures to ensure that there is a level playing field between the EU and the UK.
  • The Union's Customs Code (UCC), which sets out, inter alia, the provisions for releasing products into free circulation within the EU, will continue to apply to Northern Ireland. This will ensure that Northern Irish businesses will not face restrictions when placing products on the EU's Single Market.
  • The UK in respect of Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of rules that are related to the EU's Single Market and indispensable for avoiding a hard border: legislation on goods, sanitary rules for veterinary controls (“SPS rules”), rules on agricultural production/marketing, VAT and excise in respect of goods, and state aid rules.

Why do you need a backstop?

The United Kingdom has decided to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union. Both the EU and the UK have committed to avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and both Parties intend to solve this first and foremost through a future agreement.

The UK has also committed to respecting the integrity of the EU's Single Market and Customs Union – and Ireland's place in it.

Given that negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship will only be conducted during the transition period, the EU and the UK have agreed to include a legally operational backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement, which guarantees that no hard border returns – whatever the circumstances. This was agreed in the Joint Report in December 2017 and reiterated by Prime Minister Theresa May in her letter to President Tusk in March 2018, through which the UK government committed to have a legally operative backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement.

How long will the backstop apply for?

The aim of the Protocol is not to create a permanent relationship between the EU and the UK. The EU and the UK have committed that they will use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify an agreement by 1 July 2020 which would replace the backstop as contained in the Protocol, in whole or in part.

Is there any review mechanism foreseen? Can the EU or the UK ask to stop applying the backstop in whole or in part?

If at any time after the transition period, the EU or the UK considers that this Protocol, in whole or in part, is no longer necessary, it may notify the other party, setting out its reasons. The Joint Committee [as established in Article 164 of the Withdrawal Agreement] will consider the notification and may seek an opinion from institutions created by the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement 1998. Following discussions in the Joint Committee, the EU and the UK may decide jointly that the Protocol, in whole or in part, is no longer necessary to achieve its objectives.

What is the “Single Customs Territory”?

The EU and the UK have today agreed that a single EU-UK customs territory will apply from the end of the transition period until such a time as a subsequent agreement becomes applicable. This single customs territory will comprise of the customs territory of the Union (as defined in Article 4 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013) and the customs territory of the United Kingdom.

This means that:

  • the UK will align the tariffs and rules applicable to its customs territory to the Union's external tariffs and rules of origin;
  • there will therefore be no tariffs, quotas and checks on rules of origin between the EU and the UK, with the exception of fishery and aquaculture products;
  • both the EU and the UK have agreed on a series of measures ensuring a level playing field;
  • the UK will harmonise its commercial policy with the EU's common commercial policy to the extent necessary for the functioning of the single customs territory. Under no circumstances can the UK apply a lower customs tariff to its customs territory than the EU Common Customs Tariff for any good imported from any third country or apply different rules of origin.
  • The Union shall apply its trade defence policy and Generalised System of Preferences to both parts of the single customs territory; it shall consult the UK on any measures or actions which it considers taking.

What “level playing field” measures have been agreed?

The UK has committed to a level playing field based on open and fair competition between the EU and the UK given the establishment of the single customs territory with no tariffs, quotas and checks on rules of origin between the EU and the UK. The economic interconnectedness of the UK and the EU as well as the UK's geographic proximity to the EU are key elements to take into account when regulating the proper functioning of open and fair competition in the single customs territory.

The Protocol binds the UK to substantive rules, based on international and EU standards. Apart from competition rules, it is based on the principle of non-regression from the current levels of protection under international and EU standards.

State aid

The United Kingdom has committed to apply EU state aid rules, in a way that is dynamically aligned to the development of those rules in the EU.

For aid granted by the UK that affects trade between Northern Ireland and the EU, the Commission will continue to enforce State aid rules directly as part of the backstop solution. The Court of Justice of the EU also remains competent in this respect.

For State aid granted by the UK affecting trade flows only between the rest of the UK and the EU, the UK will set up an independent enforcement authority, which will work in close cooperation with the Commission. UK courts will supervise the independent enforcement authority. The Commission will have legal standing before UK courts and the right to intervene in cases.

The Withdrawal Agreement ensures close cooperation between the Union and the UK. The UK state aid authority will regularly consult with the Commission. A Joint Committee will allow both Parties to discuss matters of interest and seek commonly acceptable solutions to disagreements. In case no mutually agreed solution can be found, interim measures and an arbitration system are foreseen in case of unresolved conflicts.

Competition

The EU and the UK acknowledge that anti-competitive business practices and concentrations of undertakings have the potential to distort the functioning of markets and undermine the benefits of trade.

In this light, the EU and the UK agree that certain agreements between undertakings, the abuse of dominance by undertakings, and certain concentrations of undertakings must be prohibited in so far as they affect trade between the EU and the UK.

The EU and the UK commit to ensuring that their respective competition laws effectively enforce these agreed rules. More concretely, the UK commits to ensure that administrative and judicial proceedings are available in order to permit the effective and timely action against violations of competition rules, and provide for effective remedies. In case of disputes about whether the UK complies with these commitments, dispute settlement through arbitration is available.

Taxation

The UK has committed to implementing the principles of good governance in the area of tax, as recently agreed by the Council. These include global standards on transparency and exchange of information, fair taxation and OECD-BEPS standards. It will continue to apply its domestic law which transposes the EU Directives on the exchange of information on taxation, anti-tax avoidance rules and Country-by-Country-Reporting by credit institutions and investment firms. Moreover, the UK reaffirms its commitment to curb harmful tax measures as defined in the EU Code of Conduct.

The implementation of this commitment will be addressed by the Joint-Committee.

Environment

The EU and the UK have committed to maintain the current level of environmental protection. Both Parties have committed not to lower the EU's existing environmental standards in key areas such as industrial emissions, air quality targets, nature and biodiversity protection and environmental impact assessments. The UK will abide by key environmental principles, such as the "polluter pays" and the precautionary principle. Furthermore, the Joint Committee will - based on existing EU standards - lay down specific minimum commitments on issues such as pollution, sulphur in marine fuel and use of best available techniques governing industrial emissions.

The EU and the UK have also agreed to take the necessary measures to meet their respective commitments to international agreements to address climate change, including the Paris Agreement. Finally, the UK will implement a system of carbon pricing that is at least as effective as the EU Emission Trading Scheme for greenhouse emission allowances.

The UK has committed to ensuring the effective enforcement of such common standards in its law, regulations and practices and to set up a new independent body with the task of monitoring, reporting, overseeing and enforcing these commitments. The new independent authority will be able to receive complaints and conduct own-initiative inquiries and bring legal action before a domestic court for remedial action. In this context, the UK has committed to effective administrative and judicial proceedings which will give the right to authorities and members of the public to seek effective remedies and obtain sanctions that are effective, proportionate, dissuasive and deterrent.

Labour and social protection

A non-regression provision also applies to labour and social protection standards. The EU and the UK have committed not to reduce their common level of protection provided by their laws, regulations and practices as a result of the implementation of Union law and ratified international conventions, such as the International Labour Organisation conventions and the Council of Europe's Social Charter.

This includes provisions in relation to fundamental rights at work, such as non-discrimination and equal pay, occupational health and safety, fair working conditions and employment standards, and social rights related to restructuring of companies.

The UK will ensure effective enforcement through existing domestic authorities and an effective system of labour inspections. The UK has also committed to effective administrative and judicial proceedings.

How will these “level playing field” measures be enforced?

The enforcement of State aid and competition rules is outlined above.

The maintenance of the same level of social and environmental protection will be subject to dispute resolution in the Joint Committee. Disputes on the effectiveness of the UK's monitoring and enforcement of the common standards can, in addition, be brought to arbitration.

In taxation, an infringement by the UK of applying the domestic legal rules which transpose EU tax directives covered by the Agreement will be subject to judicial dispute settlement with the possibility of sanctions.

The Union will be able to adopt unilateral measures either under the Agreement or on the basis of Union law, and in line with international commitments. These measures may include the possibility to temporarily suspend obligations in the case of non-compliance with an arbitration ruling, safeguards or rebalancing measures (in the case of serious economic difficulties that are liable to persist), the listing of uncooperative jurisdiction for tax purposes, or action for health and environmental protection in line with international commitments (GATT).

How can you include a UK-wide customs union in the Withdrawal Agreement? Is it not part of the future relationship?

The Withdrawal Agreement under Article 50 can wind down or phase out existing situations or it can provide a bridge to the future relationship.

This means that the Withdrawal Agreement may include elements that form the basis on which arrangements in the future relationship are built. The Protocol is therefore only intended to apply temporarily, unless and until a subsequent EU-UK agreement is put in place.

Will Northern Ireland be in a different customs territory to the rest of the United Kingdom?

No. Northern Ireland will form part of the same customs territory as the rest of the UK, which forms a single customs territory with the EU.

However, under the backstop and in order to avoid a hard border, Northern Ireland businesses can place products on the EU's internal market without restriction. Placing goods on the internal market that come from outside of Northern Ireland requires that the processes provided for in the Union Customs Code will have to be applied.

Will fisheries be included in the “Single Customs Territory”?

Arrangements on fisheries will be negotiated as part of the overall future partnership. The EU and the UK will use their best endeavours to agree on a fisheries and aquaculture agreement by 1 July 2020. An essential condition for this single customs territory to cover fisheries and aquaculture products will be to agree between the Union and the UK on access to waters and fishing opportunities. We have shared objectives to ensure fishing at sustainable levels and promote resource conservation'

Will Northern Ireland remain aligned to the rules and regulations of the EU? Will Northern Ireland have to apply the EU's Customs Code?

In order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, and to ensure that Northern Irish businesses can place products on the EU's Single Market without restriction, it will be necessary for the UK in respect of Northern Ireland to maintain specific regulatory alignment with the EU, as has been agreed between the EU and the UK in the December 2017 Joint Report.

This means that Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of EU rules that are indispensable for avoiding a hard border, namely:

  • legislation on VAT and excise in respect of goods
  • legislation on goods standards
  • sanitary rules for veterinary controls ("SPS rules")
  • rules on agricultural production/marketing
  • state aid rules.

As explained above, the EU's Customs Code will also continue to apply in Northern Ireland within the overall context of the single customs territory between the EU and the UK.

Will Northern Ireland remain part of the UK's VAT area?

Yes, Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK's VAT area, with HMRC remaining responsible for the operation and collection of VAT, and the setting of VAT rates across the UK, in line with the VAT directive. Specifically, the UK will ensure that no business is required to pay VAT upfront when moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and that accounting for VAT can continue to be done through postponed accounting and VAT returns.

However, to ensure that Northern Ireland continues to be able to operate the EU's VIES system (VAT Information Exchange System) and to share data with Ireland, Northern Ireland will be required to remain aligned to EU VAT rules, but only with respect to goods.

Will there need to be checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland?

There will be no need for checks or controls on goods or persons crossing the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. There will be no hard border on the island of Ireland. The Common Travel Area can also continue to function. The UK has committed that this will not affect the obligations of Ireland under Union law, in particular with respect to free movement of EU citizens and their family members to, from and within Ireland.

What checks will need to take place on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK?

In order to ensure that Northern Irish businesses can place products on the EU's Single Market without restriction – and given the island of Ireland's status as a single epidemiological area – there would be a need for checks on goods travelling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland. There would be a need for some compliance checks with EU standards, consistent with risk, to protect consumers, economic traders and businesses in the Single Market.

The EU and the UK have agreed to carry out these checks in the least intrusive way possible. The scale and frequency of the checks could be further reduced through future agreements between the EU and the UK.

  • For industrial goods, checks are based on risk assessment, and can mostly take place in the market or at traders' premises by the relevant authorities. Such checks will always be carried out by UK authorities.
  • As for agricultural products, already existing checks at ports and airports will need to continue, but will be increased in scale in order to protect the EU's Single Market, its consumers and animal health.

Will Northern Irish businesses still have unfettered access to the rest of the UK?

Nothing in this Protocol prevents unfettered market access for Northern Ireland products in the rest of the UK. Nothing in this text prevents a product originating from Northern Ireland as being considered as a UK good when placed on the market in the rest of the UK.

Who will be responsible for implementing and applying the backstop in Northern Ireland?

The authorities of the United Kingdom will be responsible for implementing and applying the backstop in Northern Ireland. The EU will have the right to obtain information and request control measures. The UK will facilitate any requests made by EU representatives. The practical arrangements for this will be determined by the Joint Committee, following a proposal from the Specialised Committee.

How will certification and product approval work in Northern Ireland?

Where existing EU law provides for the possibility for an authority/body in another Member State to issue product approvals/certificates, this option should be used by Northern Irish businesses if they want to export to the EU27 Member States.

On the other hand, Northern Irish businesses can rely on authorisation via UK authorities (for example, in specific areas that require on-site inspections under EU law (veterinary certificates, production sites of pharmaceuticals, slaughterhouses). UK authorities would apply Union law in respect of Northern Ireland, and could decide to make such certificates valid UK-wide.

Products from Northern Ireland can continue to be labelled or marketed as UK products throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. Where EU law on goods is concerned, Northern Irish products shall be indicated as "UK(NI)". A relevant example would be regarding ear tags for live animals.

What guarantees does the backstop provide to protect the integrity of the EU's Single Market and Customs Union?

The UK in respect of Northern Ireland will apply the Union customs code and remain aligned to EU rules and standards on goods. Authorisations by UK authorities for products to be placed on the market, as well as technical regulations, assessments, registrations, certificates and approvals issued by UK authorities or bodies in the UK will be valid for Northern Ireland only. If a Northern Irish business wants to place a product on both the Northern Irish market and the EU Single Market, an authorisation from an EU27 Member State authority or body will be necessary.

Will the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice extend to Northern Ireland?

The Withdrawal Agreement will have direct effect. This means that UK courts will, in practice, apply this agreement, in the same way as they apply EU law today. The European Court of Justice is the ultimate arbiter of EU law. For issues related to EU law concepts outlined in the Withdrawal Agreement, including aspects of the Protocol, the ECJ will remain the ultimate arbiter. For all other areas of the Protocol, the enforcement and dispute resolution arrangements provided in the Withdrawal Agreement will apply'.

What else does the Protocol contain beyond the "backstop"?

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland also contains provisions that address a number of other unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, beyond issues related to customs and regulatory matters, most notably:

  • The Common Travel Area between Ireland and the United Kingdom and its associated rights and privileges will continue to apply in conformity with EU law, in particular on free movement of EU citizens.
  •  The UK will ensure that there will be no diminution of rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity as set out in the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement 1998, including with regard to EU law on non-discrimination. This commitment will be implemented and monitored through dedicated mechanisms.
  • The Single Electricity Market will be maintained on the island of Ireland.
  • North-South cooperation will continue, including in the areas of environment, health, agriculture, transport, education and tourism, as well as in the areas of energy, telecommunications, broadcasting, inland fisheries, justice and security, higher education and sport. The report will be published shortly.

How will the commitment to no diminution of “Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity” as outlined in the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement 1998 work?

The UK will remain bound by the obligations it entered into as a co-guarantor to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement 1998.

The UK has confirmed its commitment to ensure no diminution of the rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity set out in the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. This includes a commitment to no diminution in rights in the area of non-discrimination at the time of or following its withdrawal from the European Union and Annex 1 lists the existing EU Directives that have been adopted by the European Union in this area. The commitment to no diminution applies further to all rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity concepts set out in the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

Article 1(1) of the Protocol provides that the UK will implement this paragraph through dedicated mechanisms. Article 1(2) provides that the United Kingdom will continue to facilitate the work of the institutions and bodies established under the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

The United Kingdom will set out further information on its commitments in this respect.

Will Irish citizens in Northern Ireland continue to enjoy their rights as EU citizens?

Northern Ireland will no longer be part of the EU, but a great number of people born and raised there will continue to be EU citizens. They will continue to enjoy their rights as Union citizens under the Treaties. Under the Treaty (on the functioning of the European Union) they will in particular continue to enjoy the following rights:

  • non-discrimination on the basis of nationality
  • move and reside freely within the EU
  • consular protection (help from the embassy or consulate of any other EU country to EU citizens in distress in a country outside the EU where they have no embassy or consulate of their own country)
  • petition the European Parliament and complain to the European ombudsman
  • contact and receive a response from any EU institution in one of the EU's official languages
  • access European Parliament, European Commission and Council documents under certain conditions
  • access to the EU Civil Service

What will happen to the PEACE and INTERREG programmes?

The EU and the UK are committed to the PEACE and INTERREG funding programmes under the current multi-annual financial framework and to maintaining the current funding proportions for the future programme. The Commission has already proposed the continuation of PEACE and INTERREG for Northern Ireland and the border regions of Ireland beyond 2020 under a single programme PEACE PLUS. It will now be for Member States, with the consent of the European Parliament, to decide on this.

What is North South Cooperation and how will it be protected in the context of the UK's withdrawal?  

Cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland is a central part of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and is essential for achieving reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

In implementing the Protocol, the conditions necessary for continued North-South Cooperation will be maintained in a range of areas including the environment, health, agriculture, transport, education, tourism, energy, telecommunications, broadcasting, inland fisheries, justice and security, higher education and sport. The protocol recognises that, in full respect of Union law, new arrangements building on the provisions of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in these and in other areas of North-South cooperation, can continue to be made on the island of Ireland.

Both parties have recognised that the UK's departure from the EU gives rise to substantial challenges to the maintenance and development of North South Cooperation. In this context, the avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland, as provided for in other Articles of this Protocol, is an essential precondition to protecting North South Cooperation.

[1] Fisheries and aquaculture products are not within the scope of the single customs territory, see below.

Staff from the European Commission, in liaison with staff from the European Central Bank, visited Dublin from 28 November to 1 December 2017 to conduct the eighth post-programme surveillance (PPS) review mission for Ireland. The main objective of PPS is to assess the country’s capacity to repay the loans granted under the former EU-IMF financial assistance programme and, if necessary, to recommend corrective actions.

20/02/2018

The strong momentum in the Irish economy is expected to continue in the short term, but risks remain. While the headline figures remain volatile and heavily influenced by the activities of multinational enterprises, underlying domestic activity is growing at a solid pace, buoyed by robust employment growth, private consumption and strong investment in construction. Risks to the economic outlook relate primarily to the outcome of the negotiations regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union and potential changes to the international taxation environment. Risks could also arise in the event of continued strong increases in property prices over the medium term.

Public finances have further improved on the back of robust output growth, yet risks of volatility in some forms of tax revenue remain. Overall 2017 tax revenues increased at a healthy rate. Although corporation tax receipts came in better than expected, this was mostly offset by shortfalls against other main sources of tax revenue, such as income tax, excise duties and VAT. Overall government expenditure in 2017 has been within budget allocations. Irish public indebtedness has diminished in recent years, but remains elevated. The strong cyclical situation, coupled with a high degree of volatility in corporation tax revenue and heightened economic uncertainty over the medium-term implies a strong case for broadening the tax base and building fiscal buffers.

Banks continue to improve their resilience amid heightened uncertainty. Improved capital buffers should help them navigate possible impacts stemming from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU while continuing to deal with legacy issues. Strong economic growth and investor appetite for Irish assets improve banks' overall asset quality. On 23 June 2017 the government sold 28.75% of its stake in Allied Irish Banks, raising EUR 3.4 billion, the proceeds of which were used to reduce government debt. Although rising property prices are supporting the repair of banks' and households' balance sheets, the sustainability of such developments warrants continued attention. While a recovery in credit demand is observed for certain categories of loans, private debt repayments are still dominant, which makes future profitability less certain. The macroprudential framework is crucial for ensuring households’ and banks’ resilience in the current housing market dynamics. SME access to finance could be challenged by spillovers on the real sector from the UK. Concerns remain that the draft bill enabling the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) to cap interest rates on variable rate mortgages, if enacted, could have negative implications for the transmission of monetary policy, financial stability and bank competition.

While notable progress in the reduction of non-performing loans (NPLs) has been made and focus is shifting towards new lending, continued efforts to deal with legacy issues remain necessary. The stock of non-performing loans continued to decline but remains elevated, with the high share of long-term arrears, in particular mortgages, still being a concern. Domestic banks are now being active as sellers and buyers of loan portfolios. While public confidence in the banks has been dented by the mismanagement of a number of tracker mortgages, there is no evidence that this has impacted the behaviour of retail customers.

Persistent supply shortages coupled with increasing demand continue to drive strong increases in residential property prices and rents. House prices continued to rise in 2017, with an annual increase of 11.6% in November, moderating from more than a two-year high in September. Rents are above their peak 2008 level. New mortgage credit is starting to increase, albeit from a low base. The government has taken a number of measures to support the recovery of housing supply. Despite recent increases, housing output remains well below the level needed to address long-term housing demand adequately. Residential property transactions have risen gradually over the past couple of years yet remain subdued overall on the back of the limited housing stock.

Risks for Ireland's capacity to service the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSM) and European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) debt remain low. Market access conditions for the Irish sovereign remain favourable. The debt sustainability analysis shows that the public debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to decrease further in the medium-term but remains vulnerable to economic shocks. The completed early and full repayment of the outstanding IMF loans together with bilateral loans from Denmark and Sweden further reduces Ireland’s interest repayment burden, and smoothens and extends the debt maturity profile. The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) plans to maintain strong cash buffers in advance of large redemptions over the medium term, notably in 2019 and 2020.

Ireland’s macro-economic imbalances continue to unwind amid strong economic growth and following policy actions. In February 2017, Ireland was identified as experiencing macroeconomic imbalances, which require specific monitoring in the context of the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure. These imbalances are largely legacy issues relating to large stocks of public and private debt and net external liabilities, high levels of non-performing loans and real house price increases. Household debt remained broadly unchanged in 2017. While the situation of non-financial companies is more difficult to interpret given the weight of multinationals on total corporate debt, it is clear that most indigenous firms keep reducing their debt. While the high negative level of net international investment position appears to be driven by factors disconnected from the domestic economy, the external sustainability of the domestic sector is gradually improving due to current account surpluses. The government has taken measures to address public debt and housing supply shortages, but challenges remain.

The next PPS mission is planned to take place in spring 2018.

Link to the report:

Post-Programme Surveillance Report. Ireland, Autumn 2017

/ireland/file/eu-japan-tusk-abe-junckerjpg_eneu-japan-tusk-abe-juncker.jpg

Council President Donald Tusk, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

In the run-up to tomorrow's G20 conference, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have signed an agreement to go forward with opening up key EU-Japan markets.

Ireland's exports to Japan in 2015 were worth over €7 billion, while we imported almost €2.8 billion worth of goods and services (CSO figs). A deal with Japan gives Irish businesses, and agriculture in particular, major new opportunities.

06/07/2017

There is a very complete package of facts and stats published by the Brussels press service for which you will get live links on this webpage.

Attached is one of these, a closer look at trade in agriculture with Japan, particularly important for Ireland.

The European Union and Japan have reached today an agreement in principle on the main elements of an EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. This will be the most important bilateral trade agreement ever concluded by the EU and as such will for the first time include a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

For the EU and its Member States, the Economic Partnership Agreement will remove the vast majority of duties paid by EU companies, which sum up to €1 billion annually, open the Japanese market to key EU agricultural exports and increase opportunities in a range of sectors. It sets the highest standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection, fully safeguards public services and has a dedicated chapter on sustainable development. It also builds on and reinforces the high standards for the protection of personal data that both, the EU and Japan, have recently entrenched in their data protection laws.

The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and Prime-Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe made the announcement on the conclusion of the agreement in principle during the EU-Japan Summit.

President Juncker said: "Today we agreed in principle on an Economic Partnership Agreement, the impact of which goes far beyond our shores. Through this agreement, the EU and Japan uphold their shared values and commit to the highest standards in areas such as labour, safety, environmental or consumer protection. Through mutual adequacy decisions, we also make a strong commitment to uphold the fundamental right of data protection. Together, we are sending a strong message to the world that we stand for open and fair trade. As far as we are concerned, there is no protection in protectionism. Only by working together will we be able to set global standards. This will be the message that the EU and Japan will bring together to the G20 tomorrow."

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström added: "This agreement has an enormous economic importance, but it is also a way to bring us closer. We are demonstrating that the EU and Japan, democratic and open global partners, believe in free trade. That we believe in building bridges, not walls. With Japan being the fourth largest economy of the world with a big appetite for European products, this is a deal that has a vast potential for Europe. We expect a major boost of exports in many sectors of the EU economy."

Phil Hogan, Commissioner in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development said: "This is a win-win for both partners, but a big win for rural Europe. The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is the most significant and far-reaching agreement ever concluded in agriculture. Today, we are setting a new standard in trade in agriculture. Tariffs on wine exports will disappear from day one of entry into force. For wine producres this means a saving of €134 million a year. Equally the Austrian Tiroler Speck, the German Münchener beer, the Belgian Jambon d'Ardenne, the Polska Wódka as well as over 200 other EU Geographical Indications will now enjoy the same level of protection in Japan that they have in Europe."

The Economic Partnership Agreement will increase EU exports and create new opportunities for European companies, big and small, their employees and consumers. The value of exports from the EU could increase by as much as €20 billion, meaning more possibilities and jobs in many EU sectors such as agriculture and food products, leather, clothing and shoes, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and others.

With regards to agricultural exports from the EU, the agreement:

  • scraps duties on many cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar (which currently are at 29.8%) as well as on wine exports (currently at 15% on average);
  • will allow the EU to increase its beef exports to Japan substantially, while on pork there will be duty-free trade in processed meat and almost duty-free trade for fresh meat;
  • ensures the protection in Japan of more than 200 high-quality European agricultural products, so called Geographical Indications.

The agreement also opens up services markets, in particular financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications and transport. It:

  • guarantees EU companies access to the large procurement markets of Japan in 48 large cities, and removes obstacles to procurement in the economically important railway sector at national level;
  • protects sensitive economic sectors of the EU, for instance in the automotive sector, with transition periods before markets are opened.

The agreement will also strengthen Europe's leadership in shaping globalisation and the rules of global trade according to our core values and will safeguard the EU's interests and sensitivities. In doing so, it contributes to address some of the challenges identified in the reflection paper on Harnessing Globalisation presented by the Commission as part of the White Paper process.

Next Steps

Today's agreement in principle covers most aspects of the Economic Partnership Agreement. In some chapters technical details still need to be ironed out, and there are also chapters that remain outside the scope of the agreement in principle. For instance, on investment protection. The EU has put its reformed Investment Court System on the table and will reach out to all our partners, including Japan, to work towards the setting up of a Multilateral Investment Court. Other areas that require further work include regulatory cooperation and the general and institutional chapters.

Based on today's agreement in principle, negotiators from both sides will continue their work to resolve all the remaining technical issues and conclude a final text of the agreement by the end of the year. Then, the Commission will proceed to the legal verification and translation of the agreement into all EU official languages, and will consequently submit it for the approval of EU Member States and the European Parliament.

For More Information (please go to original Brussels webpage referenced above to get these links live)

Memo: key elements of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

Thematic factsheets on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement 

Infographics on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

Exporters' stories: European exporters entering the Japanese market 

Agreed chapters and negotiating documents

The agreement in principle – report submitted to Member States

Blog post by Commissioner Malmström: Agreement with Japan

Transparency in the negotiations: meetings and documents

More on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

More on trade relations between the EU and Japan

 

Annual events

EU stand at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition /ireland/file/btyste-2019-2jpg_enbtyste-2019-2.jpg copyright The EU Commission Representation in Ireland hosts a stand at the annual BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition...Read more

Publications

The European Commission Representation in Ireland /ireland/file/rep-brochure-coverjpg_enrep-brochure-cover.jpg Image from the cover of the brochure The European Commission Representation in Ireland is part of the Commission’s network of representative offices throughout...Read more

The European Commission Representation and the European Parliament Liaison Office in Ireland will host a stand at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2019, which takes place from 10 to 12 January at the RDS, Dublin 4.

Date: 
10/01/2019 (All day) to 12/01/2019 (All day)

Activities at our stand will include:

  • Dr How's Science Wows Needs You – Fun, interactive science with Dr. How's Science Wows –  check out a wide range of science experiments from making slime, erupting volcanoes, mini explosions, smoke rings and lots more.
  • "Discovering Europe" , an interactive game to test your knowledge about the EU.
  • Find out about our competition to win a trip to the European Parliament - and learn about the European Parliament Elections on 24 May 2019.
  • Questions and queries about Europe? EU Commission and Parliament staff will be on hand to answer your queries.
  • Free resources about the European Union will also be available for visitors.

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