Representation in Ireland

Ireland

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President Juncker addressing the European Parliament today in Brussels
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In an address to the European Parliament today in Brussels, President Juncker said: "If the United Kingdom is in a position to approve the Withdrawal Agreement with a sustainable majority by 12 April, the European Union should be prepared to accept a delay until 22 May. But 12 April is the ultimate deadline for the approval of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons. If it has not done so by then, no further short extension will be possible. After 12 April, we risk jeopardising the European Parliament elections, and so threaten the functioning of the European Union."

Scroll down for the full text of President Juncker's speech.

03/04/2019

Statement by President Juncker on the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union at the European Parliament's plenary session

President Tajani,

Honourable Members of this House,

The developments in Westminster over the past days have convinced me of what I already knew. The best way forward is the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. It has already been agreed by the Government of the United Kingdom, endorsed by this House as well as by the European Council.

In its decision 10 days ago, the European Council paved the way for an extension of the Article 50 negotiation period until the 22 May – on the condition the Withdrawal Agreement was approved by the House of Commons by 29 March. This was not the case.

In light of Prime Minister May's statement last night, I believe we now have a few more days. If the United Kingdom is in a position to approve the Withdrawal Agreement with a sustainable majority by 12 April, the European Union should be prepared to accept a delay until 22 May.

But 12 April is the ultimate deadline for the approval of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons. If it has not done so by then, no further short extension will be possible. After 12 April, we risk jeopardising the European Parliament elections, and so threaten the functioning of the European Union.

The Withdrawal Agreement is and has always been a compromise. A fair compromise in which both sides obtained some but not all of what they sought. It is the kind of compromise through which the European Union was built. The kind of compromise that enables the European project to advance. The kind of compromise we need at the moment.

Much of the debate in the House of Commons has related to the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. The European Union stands ready to add flexibility to the Political Declaration, to pave the way for a close economic partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom in the future.

We stand ready to refer to a range of options, from a free trade agreement, to customs arrangements, to a Customs Union all the way to the European Economic Area. The openness we have shown from the start could be laid out, in purest clarity.

On the EU side, we stand ready to launch the talks and negotiations on the future partnership as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement is signed. Before the ink is dry. The Commission's negotiating team is in place. Michel Barnier, our Chief Negotiator, is ready. I would expect the same level of readiness on the United Kingdom side.

Whether this happens or not depends on the United Kingdom. The European Council gave the United Kingdom the time and the space to decide.

Yet I believe that a “no deal” at midnight on the 12 April is now a very likely scenario. It is not the outcome I want. But it is an outcome for which I have made sure the European Union is ready.

We have been preparing since December 2017. We have always known that the logic of Article 50 makes a “no-deal” the default outcome. We have long been aware of the balance of power in the House of Commons.

In that time, the Commission has published 91 preparedness notices, 32 non-legislative acts, 19 legislative proposals and 3 Communications. We have visited all 27 Member States to support their preparations. We have held 72 seminars with the Member States.

The measures we and the Member States have taken will mitigate the worst impact of a “no-deal” scenario. The protection offered is real. The measures will make sure that EU and UK citizens can continue to live and work where they are at the moment. They make sure that planes can take off and land. We have adapted our financial instrument to make it possible to help fishing communities. We have identified the ways in which law enforcement cooperation can continue. We have taken steps to mitigate disruption on our financial markets.

The measures we have taken are time-limited and unilateral. They provide a cushion for key EU interests at least until the end of the year. But disruption will be inevitable for citizens, for businesses and for almost every sector.

The United Kingdom will be affected more than the European Union because there is no such thing as a “managed or negotiated no-deal” and there is no such thing as a “no-deal transition”.

And whatever happens, the United Kingdom will still be expected to address the three main separation issues.

  • Citizens' rights would still need to be upheld and protected.
  • The United Kingdom would still have to honour its financial commitments made as a Member State.
  • And thirdly, a solution would still need to be found on the island of Ireland that preserves peace and the internal market. The United Kingdom must fully respect the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

“No-deal” does not mean no commitments. And these three issues will not go away. They will be a strict condition to rebuild trust and to start talking on the way forward.

At the European Council next week, we will listen to Prime Minister May's intentions and decide how to proceed. The principles that will guide my actions are clear. I will work until the last moment to avoid a “no-deal” outcome.

The only ones who would benefit from such disruption are the opponents of the global rules-based order. The only ones who would cheer are the populists and the nationalists. The only ones who would celebrate are those who want both the European Union and the United Kingdom to be weak.

The European Union will not kick any Member State out. I will personally do everything I can to prevent a disorderly Brexit and I expect political leaders across the EU27 and in the United Kingdom to do the same.

Thank you.

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Illustrative image
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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.

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The winning team from St Columba’s College, Stranorlar
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St Columba’s College, Stranorlar, Co. Donegal have won the 2019 Model Council of the European Union. The event took place today in Dublin Castle. Runners-up were Maynooth Post-Primary, Co Kildare.  These two schools rose above 23 other schools from all over Ireland, while discussing how the EU should spend its Budget for the period 2021 to 2027. The theme of this year’s subject is highly topical as EU Member States are actively discussing the European Commission’s proposed Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027.

01/03/2019

St Columba’s College were representing Croatia, while Maynooth Post-Primary role-played France in today’s colourful and well-informed debate. Honourable mentions were given to: St Mary’s College, Arklow, Co Wicklow (representing the UK), Hartstown Community School, Clonsilla, Dublin 15 (representing Sweden), Coláiste Chill Mhantáin, Co Wicklow (representing Denmark) and The King's Hospital, Palmerstown, Dublin 20 (representing Belgium).

Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD opened the debate: " I’m delighted to see so many schools from across Ireland in Dublin Castle this morning full of enthusiasm for the 2019 Model Council Debate on the future EU Budget. We are all looking forward to hearing the views of our ‘Member State Delegates’ on how the EU Budget – also known as the Multi Annual Financial Framework – should be spent between 2021 and 2027. With so many policy areas that deserve funding and each Member State having their own priorities, today’s debate promises to the a rich and engaging one.” 

For the Model Council, each school represents one EU Member State. Before the debate, the students and their teachers research the issues for the country they are role-playing. The Ambassadors from each EU country come to Dublin Castle on the day to meet the students representing their home country.

The Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, Gerry Kiely said: "This is a timely debate as the EU Member States are actively discussing whether the Budget proposed by the European Commission addresses their individual and collective long-term priorities in areas such as: developing the digital economy; environmental protection and climate action; addressing migration; investing in security and defence while also continuing to fund the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy. Just like today, the negotiations can’t go on forever – compromises must be found so that the next Multiannual Financial Framework is approved by the end of 2019 to ensure that the new programmes are up and running by 1 January 2021. Taking longer would cause delays, with real consequences for regions, small businesses, farmers, researchers and young people and everyone who benefits from the EU budget.”

The debate was chaired by Senator Neale Richmond, who commended how “the students demonstrated an impressive understanding of the spending priorities of the Member State they represented. They portrayed very creatively how Member States defend their interests in such a complex negotiation and – with great diplomatic potential - came to some clear conclusions on how the EU budget should be spent.”

Throughout the day, the performance of each team was carefully evaluated by the judges Noelle O’Connell, Executive Director of the European Movement Ireland and James Temple Smithson, Head of the European Parliament Liaison Office in Ireland.

Vice-President of the European Parliament, MEP Mairead McGuinness, presented the prizes to the winning and runner-up teams, saying: “I would like to congratulate all the students (and their teachers) for preparing so well for today’s debate. You all grasped the political reality of negotiating a budget and portrayed your Member States with great flair. I’m delighted that the winning team will now have the opportunity to participate in the European Parliament's Euroscola programme in September. Ahead of the European Parliament elections on Friday 24 May, I hope that you will all continue to engage with the European Union and that you carry this passionate European spirit long into the future.”

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President Juncker with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
President Juncker with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration have been negotiated in good faith and have been agreed by all 27 Leaders of the European Union Member States as well as by the United Kingdom Government. 

As we have said on many occasions, the Withdrawal Agreement is the best and only deal possible. It is not open for renegotiation.

06/02/2019

The backstop is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement. While we hope the backstop will not need to be used, it is a necessary legal guarantee to protect peace and to ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, while protecting the integrity of our Single Market and the Customs Union.

The Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, is a balanced compromise, representing a good outcome for citizens and businesses on all sides, including in Northern Ireland. 

The backstop is not a bilateral issue, but a European one. Ireland's border is also the border of the European Union and its market is part of the Single Market.  We will stay united on this matter.

We will continue to seek agreement on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom but we will also step up our preparation for a no-deal scenario. In this context, programmes that provide support for cross-border peace and reconciliation in the border counties of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be continued and strengthened. The Commission stands ready to support Ireland in finding solutions answering the specific challenges that Ireland and Irish citizens, farmers and businesses will face.  We will work closely together to this end over the coming weeks. 

We will continue to remind the Government of the United Kingdom of its responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement, with or without a deal.

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President Juncker in the European Parliament
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In a speech to the European Parliament today, President Juncker said: "The Withdrawal Agreement remains the best and only deal possible. The European Union said so in November. We said so in December. We said so after the first meaningful vote in the Commons in January. The debate and votes in the House of Commons yesterday do not change that. The Withdrawal Agreement will not be renegotiated."

See below for the full text of the President's speech.

30/01/2019

Speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker at the Plenary session of the European Parliament on the occasion of the debate on the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU

Mr President,

Honourable Members,

In less than 60 days, the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union. This is a bad decision, as I find.

Even as the Commission has defended the interests of the European Union, this spirit of respect and friendship has accompanied us at every step in these negotiations. The Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration agreed by all 27 Leaders and the United Kingdom government is the result of that. The Withdrawal Agreement remains the best and only deal possible.

The European Union said so in November. We said so in December. We said so after the first meaningful vote in the Commons in January. The debate and votes in the House of Commons yesterday do not change that. The Withdrawal Agreement will not be renegotiated.

Both sides have said loud and clear that there can be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland. No slipping back into darker times past. I believe the Prime Minister's personal commitment on this point. But I also believe that we need a safety net that secures us against this risk. We have no incentive nor desire to use the safety net. But at the same time, no safety net can ever truly be safe if it can just be removed at any time.

Sometimes, from time to time, I have the impression that some hope that the 26 other countries will abandon the backstop and so Ireland at the last minute. But this is not a game. And neither is it a simple bilateral issue. It goes to the heart of what being a member of the European Union means. Ireland's border is Europe's border – and it is our Union's priority.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We know from yesterday's debate that the House of Commons is against many things. It is against a no-deal Brexit. It is against the backstop. But we still do not know what exactly the House of Commons is actually for.

The concept of 'alternative arrangements' is not new. It was discussed in the negotiations. It is referred to in the Political Declaration. And in our letter to Prime Minister May, Donald Tusk and I committed to exploring it further as a matter of priority. But a concept is not a plan. It is not an operational solution. Many in the House of Commons – both among those who voted for and those who voted against the amendment – are aware of this.

I will continue to be in close contact with Prime Minister May – for whom I have the greatest respect – and I will listen to her ideas. But I will also be extremely clear about the position of the European Union, that I have presented to you today.

Monsieur le Président,

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Laissez-moi vous dire clairement que le vote hier a accru le risque d'un retrait désordonné du Royaume-Uni. Nous devons continuer à tout faire pour nous préparer à tous les scenarios, y compris le pire.

La Commission a commencé ses travaux préparatoires en décembre 2017. Et ces dernières semaines, en étroite coopération avec votre Parlement, Monsieur le Président, nous avons accéléré nos préparations. J'ai envoyé une équipe dans chaque capitale pour aider les Etats membres à être prêts. Le Conseil européen a apporté son appui à ce travail depuis le début.

Nous avons à ce jour publié 88 notifications montrant quelles seront les conséquences du Brexit dans différents domaines ainsi que 18 propositions ou actes législatifs. Les trois dernières propositions portant sur le programme Erasmus, la sécurité sociale et le budget de l'Union européenne ont été adoptées et présentées aujourd'hui. Je voudrais d'ores et déjà remercier tous les Membres du Parlement qui sont concernés afin de garantir que nous parvenions à des accords rapides sur ces propositions et sur tous les dossiers urgents en attente.

Il est plus que jamais important que l'Union européenne reste calme, unie, déterminée ainsi qu'elle a été tout au long de ce processus. Dans ce travail, nous devons suivre une règle d'or: nous ne devons pas reproduire les bénéfices de l'accord de retrait ou de la déclaration politique.

Dear colleagues,

I am – and still am – an optimist by nature, and a believer in democratic institutions by conviction. This leads me to believe that there can and will be agreement with the United Kingdom so that we can move on and move forward together with our new partnership.

We will work day and night to make it happen – and to ensure that we are ready in case it does not. Whichever way, I will always ensure that this House is the first to know and the last to decide.

Thank you.

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EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom speaking at EU Trade Policy Day
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Two new studies published today by the European Commission highlight the increasing importance of EU exports for job opportunities in Europe and beyond.

EU exports to the world are more important than ever, supporting 36 million jobs across Europe, two thirds more than in 2000. 14 million of these jobs are held by women. In addition, EU exports to the world generate €2.3 trillion of value added in the EU.

Exports from Ireland to countries outside the EU support 648,000 jobs in Ireland. Irish companies’ exports outside the EU were worth €128 billion in 2017.

27/11/2018

Since the beginning of this Commission in 2014, the number of jobs supported by exports has increased by 3.5 million. These jobs are on average 12% better paid than jobs in the rest of the economy.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: "This study makes it crystal clear that trade means jobs. Exports from the EU to the world support the livelihoods of a vast, and increasing, number of citizens in every corner of Europe. Almost 40 percent of those whose jobs are supported by trade are women. EU trade also supports millions of jobs far beyond EU borders, including in developing countries. So here's even more proof that trade can be a win-win: what's good for us is also good for our partners around the world."

The report released today, during the EU Trade Policy Day, includes detailed factsheets about the results for every EU Member State. Exports create and support jobs all across the EU, and the numbers are increasing. The highest increases have been seen since 2000 in Bulgaria (+312%), Slovakia (+213%), Portugal (+172%), Lithuania (+153%), Ireland (+147%), Estonia (+147%) and Latvia (+138%).

The figures released today highlight an important positive spillover effect from exports to the world. When EU exporters in one Member State do well, workers in other Member States also benefit. This is because firms providing goods and services along the supply chain also gain when their end-customer sells the final product abroad. To give an example, French exports to the rest of the world support around 627,000 jobs in other EU Member States.

Finally, EU exports to countries around the world support almost 20 million jobs outside the EU. These jobs have more than doubled since 2000. For instance, more than 1 million jobs in the United States are supported by the production of US goods and services that are incorporated into EU exports through global supply chains.

The study looks also into the gender balance, concluding that there are almost 14 million women in jobs supported by trade in the EU.

Background

The European Commission identified trade policy as a core component of the European Union's 2020 Strategy. Given the fast changing global economy landscape it is more important than ever to fully understand how trade flows affect employment. This can only be done by gathering comprehensive, reliable and comparable information and analysis to support evidence-based policymaking.

Guided by that objective, the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Commission's Directorate General for Trade have collaborated to produce a publication that aims to be a valuable tool for trade policymakers and researcher.

Following up the first edition of 2015, the report features a series of indicators to illustrate in detail the relationship between trade and employment for the EU as a whole and for each EU Member State using the new World Input-Output Database for the year 2016 as the main data source. This information has been complemented with data on employment by age, skill and gender. All the indicators relate to the EU exports to the rest of the world to reflect the scope of EU trade policymaking.

For More Information

The memo with more detailed findings

Interactive map (28 country factsheets and 1 EU factsheet): how many jobs are supported by exports in your country?

Full study – data and graphs

Trade and income study

Economist's note – the data of the study, explained

2015 report

European Trade Policy Day event page

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EU and UK flags
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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.

The European Commission has today published a limited number of detailed contingency plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In a Communication published today on "Preparing for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 30 March 2019: a Contingency Action Plan", the Commission said:

"The Commission stands ready to engage as of now with the Member States that will be most affected by a disorderly withdrawal and explore pragmatic and efficient support solutions, in line with EU State aid law. In particular, the Commission will support Ireland in finding solutions addressing the specific challenges of Irish businesses.

13/11/2018

"Technical and financial assistance from the European Union can also be made available in certain areas, such as the training of customs officials under the Customs 2020 programme. Other programmes can help similar training projects in the area of sanitary and phytosanitary controls. For agriculture, EU law provides a variety of instruments to cope with the most immediate effects of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, in particular in a no-deal scenario.

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU will impact all Member States to varying degrees, but none more so than Ireland. On the basis of the principles described above, the Commission stands ready to support Ireland to find solutions addressing the particular challenges. The Commission is also committed to ensuring the continuation of the current PEACE and INTERREG programmes between the border counties of Ireland and Northern Ireland, to which the United Kingdom is a partner. The Commission has made proposals to this effect for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework. Should the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU be disorderly, the Commission considers that this support should be further strengthened as the challenges will be particularly acute."

Download the full Communication here.

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Commissioner Pierre Moscovici presenting the forecasts
Commissioner Pierre Moscovici presenting the forecasts

In its Autumn 2018 Economic Forecast published this morning, the European Commission revised upwards its growth predictions for Ireland for 2018 and 2019 (see attached table) compared to the Summer 2018 forecasts. GDP growth for Ireland is now forecast to reach 7.8% in 2018 and 4.5% in 2019. 

The Ireland country report says: "GDP growth in Ireland is expected to be strong this year, driven largely by the activities of multinational companies, but the pace is projected to moderate. The positive performance of the labour market and construction investment are expected to support the domestic economy in the near term. The government deficit is projected to turn slowly into a surplus, but risks to the fiscal outlook remain."

Download the report at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/economy-finance/ecfin_forecast_autumn_081018_ie_en.pdf

08/11/2018

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Table showing key figures for Ireland
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Autumn 2018 Economic Forecast: sustained but less dynamic growth amid high uncertainty

Growth in the euro area is forecast to ease from a 10-year high of 2.4% in 2017 to 2.1% in 2018 before moderating further to 1.9% in 2019 and 1.7% in 2020. The same pattern is expected for the EU27, with growth forecast at 2.2% in 2018, 2.0% in 2019 and 1.9% in 2020.

Last year's exceptionally benign global situation helped to underpin strong economic activity and investment in the EU and euro area.
Despite a more uncertain environment, all Member States are forecast to continue growing, though at a slower pace, thanks to the strength of domestic consumption and investment. Barring major shocks, Europe should be able to sustain above-potential economic growth, robust job creation and falling unemployment. However, this baseline scenario is subject to a growing number of interconnected downside risks.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: "All EU economies are set to grow this year and next, which will bring more jobs. However, uncertainty and risks, both external and internal, are on the rise and start to take a toll on the pace of economic activity. We need to stay vigilant and work harder to reinforce the resilience of our economies. At EU level, it means taking concrete decisions on further strengthening our Economic and Monetary Union. At national level, there is even a stronger case for building up fiscal buffers and reducing debt while making sure that the benefits of growth are also felt by the most vulnerable members of society." 

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: ‘“The European economy is holding up well, with growth easing gradually. We project this pattern will continue over the next two years, as unemployment continues to fall to levels not seen since before the crisis. Public debt in the euro area is set to continue declining, with the deficit remaining well below 1% of GDP. In an increasingly uncertain international environment, policy-makers both in Brussels and in national capitals must work to ensure that the euro area is strong enough to deal with whatever the future might hold.”

Domestic demand to drive growth

Rising global uncertainty, international trade tensions and higher oil prices will have a dampening effect on growth in Europe. Following years of robust employment growth, the prospect of a slowdown in labour market improvements and of increasing supply side constraints in some Member States could also add to this dampening effect.

The drivers of growth are set to become increasingly domestic: private consumption should benefit from stronger wage growth and fiscal measures in some Member States. Financing conditions and high rates of capacity utilisation are also expected to remain supportive of investment. For the first time since 2007, investment is expected to increase in all Member States in 2019.

Taking all of these factors into account, gross domestic product (GDP) in all Member States should continue to grow but the pace is set to slow and appears somewhat weaker than expected in the summer. 

Unemployment continues to fall

Labour market conditions continued to improve in the first half of 2018, with employment growth remaining steady even as economic growth cooled.

Job creation is set to continue to benefit from continued growth and structural reform implementation in some Member States. Unemployment should continue to fall but at a slower pace than in the past, as employment growth is eventually dampened by increasing labour shortages and slower economic growth.

Unemployment in the euro area is expected to fall to 8.4% this year and then to 7.9% in 2019 and 7.5% in 2020. In the EU27, unemployment is forecast at 7.4% this year before falling to 7% in 2019 and 6.6% in 2020. This would represent the lowest unemployment rate recorded since the start of the monthly unemployment series in January 2000.

Inflation driven by oil prices

Headline inflation is forecast to remain moderate over the forecast period. In the euro area, inflation is set to reach 1.8% in 2018 and 2019 and to slow to 1.6% in 2020.

The rise in oil prices has pushed up inflation this year and strong positive base effects are expected to continue into the first quarter of next year. While core inflation, which excludes energy and unprocessed food prices, has been relatively muted so far this year, it is expected to reassert itself as the main driver of headline inflation in 2020, as wages rise amid tightening labour markets.

Public finances: debt levels are decreasing and the aggregate euro area public deficit is now below 1%

The euro area's general government deficit is projected to continue declining relative to GDP this year, thanks to lower interest expenditure. This decline is set to come to a halt next year for the first time since 2009, as the fiscal stance turns slightly expansionary in 2019 before turning broadly neutral in 2020. The euro area's general government deficit is expected to increase from 0.6% of GDP in 2018 to 0.8% in 2019 and to decline to 0.7% in 2020. For the EU27, the general government deficit is expected to increase from 0.6% of GDP in 2018 to 0.8% in 2019 and to decline to 0.6% in 2020. Overall, the trend remains one of sizeable improvements compared to ten years ago, in 2009, where the deficit level peaked at 6.2% in the euro area, and at 6.6% in the EU.

Debt-to-GDP ratios are projected to continue to fall in the euro area and in almost all Member States, supported by debt-decreasing primary surpluses and continued growth. The euro area debt-to-GDP ratio is set to fall from 86.9% in 2018 to 84.9% in 2019 and to 82.8% in 2020, down from a peak of 94.2% in 2014. In the EU27, the general government debt ratio is set to fall from 80.6% of GDP in 2018 to 78.6% in 2019 and 76.7% in 2020.

Many interrelated risks and uncertainty cloud the outlook

There is a high degree of uncertainty surrounding the forecast and there are many interconnected downside risks. The materialisation of any of these risks could amplify the others and magnify their impact.

Overheating in the US, fuelled by pro-cyclical fiscal stimulus, could lead to interest rates rising faster than expected, which would have numerous negative spillover effects beyond the US, particularly in emerging markets which are vulnerable to changes in capital flows and exposed to US dollar-denominated debt. This could exacerbate financial market tensions. The EU could also suffer given its strong trade links and banks' exposure.

The expected widening of the US current account deficit could also stoke further trade tensions with China. This could raise the risk of a disorderly adjustment in China, given the level of corporate debt and financial fragility. Any increase in trade tensions would also hurt the EU through its effect on confidence, investment and its high integration in global value chains.

Within the EU, doubts about the quality and sustainability of public finances in highly indebted Member States could spill over to domestic banking sectors, raising financial stability concerns and weighing on economic activity.

Finally, risks related to the outcome of the Brexit negotiations also remain.

For the United Kingdom, a purely technical assumption for 2019 and 2020

To allow for a comparison over time, the projections cover all 28 Member States, including the United Kingdom. Given the ongoing negotiations on the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, our projections are based on a purely technical assumption of status quo in terms of trading relations between the EU27 and the UK. This is for forecasting purposes only and has no bearing on the talks underway in the context of the Article 50 process.

Background

This forecast is based on a set of technical assumptions concerning exchange rates, interest rates and commodity prices with a cut-off date of 22 October 2018. For all other incoming data, including assumptions about government policies, this forecast takes into consideration information up until and including 22 October. Unless policies are credibly announced and specified in adequate detail, the projections assume no policy changes.

The European Commission's next forecast will be an update of GDP and inflation projections in the Winter 2019 Interim Economic Forecast in February 2019.

As of this year, the European Commission has reverted to publishing two comprehensive forecasts (spring and autumn) and two interim forecasts (winter and summer) each year, instead of the three comprehensive forecasts in winter, spring and autumn that it has produced each year since 2012. The interim forecasts cover annual and quarterly GDP and inflation for the current and following year for all Member States and the euro area, as well as EU aggregates. This change is a return to the Commission's previous pattern of forecasts and brings the Commission's forecast schedule back into line with those of other institutions (e.g. the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

For More Information

Full document: Autumn 2018 Economic Forecast

Following the confirmation by Ireland that the full recovery of the illegal State aid granted to Apple has been finalised, the Commission has today decided to withdraw its Court action against Ireland.

On 30 August 2016, the Commission adopted a State aid decision finding that Ireland had granted undue tax benefits of up to €13 billion to Apple. The Commission concluded that these tax benefits were illegal under EU State aid rules as they allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax on profits recorded in Ireland than other companies subject to same national taxation laws and ordered Ireland to recover the amount of taxes that should have been paid by Apple.

18/10/2018

The deadline for Ireland to implement the Commission's decision and recover the illegal State aid was 3 January 2017.

In view of the delay in recovery, on 4 October 2017 the Commission referred Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failure to recover the illegal State aid granted to Apple.

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Infographic on state aid to Apple
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On 6 September 2018, Ireland completed the recovery of the aid. A total of €14.3 billion including interest was repaid by Apple into an escrow fund pending the final judgments of the EU courts in the actions for annulment of the Commission decision brought by Ireland (Case T-778/16) and Apple (Case T-892/16).

Taking into account that the payment into the escrow fund of the illegal aid removed the distortion of competition caused by that aid, the Commission has today decided to withdraw the Court action.

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