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Trade war looms as UK set to spurn EU offer on Northern Ireland

Trade

Trade war looms as UK set to spurn EU offer on Northern Ireland

Fears that the UK is heading for a trade war with the EU have been fuelled by strong indications from the government that it thinks proposals to be unveiled in Brussels on Wednesday over Brexit arrangements do not go far enough.

The Brexit minister, David Frost, will use a speech in Portugal on Tuesday to say that the EU scrapping its prohibition on British sausages to resolve the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol does not meet the UK and unionists’ demands.

Lord Frost will call for “significant” changes to the post-Brexit agreement he negotiated, including over the role of the European court of justice, something the EU is highly unlikely to concede to.

“Without new arrangements in this area, the protocol will never have the support it needs to survive,” he will warn on the eve of a significant move by the EU to resolve the row.

Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, reacted with incredulity at the UK’s “red line” and its timing just days before what he said was a “serious” offer from the EU.

He tweeted: “EU working seriously to resolve practical issues with implementation of Protocol – so UKG creates a new “red line” barrier to progress, that they know EU can’t move on … are we surprised? Real Q: does UKG actually want an agreed way forward or a further breakdown in relations?”

Frost immediately responded to Coveney, saying his demands over the ECJ were nothing new.

“I prefer not to do negotiations by Twitter, but since @simoncoveney has begun the process … the issue of governance & the CJEU [court of justice of the European Union] is not new. We set out our concerns three months ago in our 21 July Command Paper. The problem is that too few people seem to have listened,” he said.

1. I prefer not to do negotiations by twitter, but since @simoncoveney has begun the process…

…the issue of governance & the CJEU is not new. We set out our concerns three months ago in our 21 July Command Paper.

The problem is that too few people seem to have listened.

— David Frost (@DavidGHFrost) October 9, 2021
The EU’s Brexit commissioner, Maroš Šefčovič, will table four papers on Wednesday on the subject of how the Northern Ireland protocol can be improved – which he has described as “very far-reaching”.

Included will be a proposed “national identity” exemption for British sausages from the EU’s prohibition on prepared meat from a third country, sources said.

However, Mujtaba Rahman, the managing director of the Eurasia Group consultancy, warned in a note to clients on Saturday that the absence of concessions on the ECJ will give Frost the justification for triggering article 16, the mechanism for putting the Northern Ireland protocol into formal dispute process or putting it into abeyance by disapplying the arrangements altogether.

“There is a huge amount of cynicism in the EU about what the government’s actual objectives are. Is it to fix substantive issues in Northern Ireland or is it to keep an ideological fight with the EU rolling because it serves certain sections of the Tory party?” said Rahman.

“The French president and the German chancellor and the European Commission president cannot wake up every single day to a new argument with Boris Johnson. At some point they need to send a stronger, simpler message.

“Use of a termination clause within the trade and cooperation agreement itself can be triggered unilaterally and would fully suspend the zero tariff/quota trade deal between the two sides.”

This cross-retaliation mechanism allowing trade penalties for breaches of the withdrawal agreement was agreed by both sides, but others think the EU will not be so keen to go nuclear.

Catherine Barnard, professor of EU law at the University of Cambridge, believes short sharp shocks in the form of tariffs on such British products as Scottish whisky or salmon are more likely.

She also said that the ECJ is not a significant issue in relation to the trade of goods. Its annual report cites just 24 cases relating to customs union laws currently pending, among more than 1,045 in total.

Frost also told delegates at the Conservative party conference last week that the rules required the EU to be “proportionate” but said he still hoped to come out of negotiations with a fresh deal.

Retaliatory measures are unlikely until next year, with the EU expected to respond with infringement and legal proceedings as its first response to any suspension of the Northern Ireland protocol by the UK.

The protocol, designed to avoid a hard border between the UK and the single market operating in the Republic of Ireland, placed a border in the Irish Sea, enraging unionists who see checks on goods coming into Northern Ireland from Britain as an attack on the integrity of the UK and their British identity.

The EU is expected to propose eliminating checks on goods destined to remain in Northern Ireland, with checks only on those products that are intended for sale in the republic.

Both sides have said they expect to go into a period of intense negotiation, which Frost put at three weeks, after the EU’s response to the UK’s demands are published on Wednesday.

However, one school of thought is that Frost and the home secretary, Priti Patel, are being used to keep the Brexit pot boiling to show how the UK is sticking up against “EU bullies”.

Others think the fight over Northern Ireland is more fundamental. One former Downing Street official said he had been told that Boris Johnson “was going round telling people he had been misled” over the protocol and was determined it would have to be rewritten.

Frost will say on Tuesday that “the UK-EU relationship is under strain” but if the two sides can put the protocol “on a durable footing, we have the opportunity to move past the difficulties of the past year”.

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Business

Senators reject bill seeking to to reduce CBN’s regulatory power on FX market

Nigerian senators have rejected a bill seeking to amend the Foreign Exchange Act of 2004 expected to reduce the regulatory function of the Central Bank of Nigeria on the Fx Market.

The bill, titled “The Foreign Exchange (Control and Monitoring) Bill, 2024 (SB. 353),” was sponsored by Sani Musa (APC-Niger), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and was first read on Tuesday, February 20.

According to NAN, Musa described the bill as crucial legislation intended to repeal the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, Cap. F34, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

He stated that the proposed law would regulate, monitor, and supervise market transactions and related matters.

He added that the bill will stabilize the country’s foreign exchange market.

“The Bill seeks to stabilize the value of the currency by ensuring the liberalization of foreign exchange transactions to maintain an equilibrium of the balance of international payments.”

However, senators vehemently opposed the bill.

They said it would be counterproductive to CBN’s effort at stabilizing the foreign exchange market.

Senators who opposed the bill are Solomon Adeola (Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation), Tokunbo Abiru (Chairman of the Committee on Banking, Insurance, and Other Financial Institutions), and Aliyu Wadada (Chairman of the Senate Public Accounts Committee.

Senator Ibrahim Dankwambo (APC-Gombe), giving reason for opposing the bill said that passing such a law would confuse Nigerians.

Similarly, Senator Adams Oshiomhole (APC-Edo) pointed out that the senators who had spoken had meticulously summarized and amplified the contradictions and negative implications of passing the law.

Oshiomhole said he believes the bill should not proceed further, as it would effectively take over the CBN’s monetary policy regulations.

The President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, urged Senator Musa to withdraw the proposed law for further consultations but the senator declined.

Senator Akpabio then called for a voice vote to decide its approval or rejection for a second reading and the majority of lawmakers voted against it.

The development comes as the Naira recorded its first appreciationp against the dollar on Thursday, exchanging at N1,554.65 per dollar.

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Oyebanji Seeks Belgium’s Partnership in Technology, Agriculture, Intellectual Capacity Devt for Wealth Creation

Ekiti State Governor, Mr Biodun Oyebanji says his administration is building blocks for mutual bilateral relationships between the State and developed countries of the world to turn around the fortunes of its citizens.

Governor Oyebanji made this known during a meeting with the Belgium Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Pieter Leenknegt at the Belgium Embassy in Abuja, on Wednesday, where potential areas of collaboration were discussed.

Governor Oyebanji who was accompanied by the some state officials, including Commissioner for Budget, Economic Planning and Performance Management, Mr Niyi Adebayo; and Commissioner for Finance, Mr Akin Oyebode, DG office of partnership Biodun Oyeleye, highlighted some critical areas of the State’s 30 – year development plan.

He noted that the state government has a clear vision of opportunities in the areas of ecosystem innovation, technology, renewable energy, environmental management and agricultural production and exportation as well as intellectual capacity development for wealth creation.

“Our vision for Ekiti State is clear. Despite the various challenges, indices and factors being that we are landlocked, we are committed to exploring and leveraging opportunities in ecosystem innovation, technology, renewable energy, and agricultural production. Collaboration with developed nations is crucial for the actualization of our 30-year development plan and ensure sustainable growth and prosperity for our people.”

The Governor highlighted the state’s substantial investments in social programs, commercial agriculture, and various intervention initiatives aimed at boosting the purchasing power of Ekiti’s citizens stressing the necessity of international collaboration to fully realize the state’s ambitious 30-year development plan.

In his response, Ambassador Leenknegt acknowledged Ekiti state’s efforts, which align with global best practices and ECOWAS standards. He advised the Ekiti government to expedite the completion of the state’s airport to improve access and connectivity.

He commended the initiatives behind the Ekiti Knowledge zone noting its potential to transform local knowledge into wealth, expressing Belgium’s interest in partnering with Ekiti State in areas such as communication technology, transportation, and tropical agriculture, including cacao and palm kernel production as well as enhancing academic partnerships between Belgian institutions and universities in Ekiti State.

“We recognize and appreciate the significant strides being made by the Ekiti State government. The Ekiti Knowledge Zone is a remarkable initiative with the potential to turn local knowledge into wealth. Belgium is keen to explore collaboration in areas such as communication technology, transportation, and tropical agriculture, including cacao and palm kernel production.” Said the Ambassador

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Business

NCAA to sanction airlines over deceitful departure schedules

National carrier gets licence today, local airlines fault process

The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has condemned what it calls the prevalent cases of deceitful departure time scheduling by airlines, warning the erring airlines to desist from the infraction or face dire regulatory actions.

The Acting Director General, Civil Aviation, Nigeria, Captain Chris Najomo, while declaring this on Tuesday at the Authority’s corporate headquarters in Abuja, said the NCAA now runs a zero-tolerance approach to regulatory infractions.

Speaking through the NCAA Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Mr. Michael Achimugu, the acting DG warned the airlines to desist from the infraction or face dire regulatory actions.

“He made the ease of doing business the crux of his action plan for the NCAA. In line with that action plan, he has made processes for licensing easy for operators. The time to secure AOC is now shorter and less cumbersome than it used to be in the past,” he stated.

“The NCAA therefore expects reciprocity from airlines. Chief of which is world-class services to passengers.

Najomo said that if the NCAA is making doing business easier for operators, the operators must satisfy the passengers too with superior services.

He said, “It has come to our notice that some airlines are being reported for advertising deceitful departure times. The NCAA regulation says no airline shall display deceitful passenger departure time at its counter, advert material, or on its website.

“We want to make it very clear that the DGCA has directed monitoring and offenders will face serious regulatory actions.”

According to him, the Authority believes in safety, discipline, and economic regulation which is evidenced in the recent suspension of ten PNCF holders for failing to comply with the recertification advisory issued in April 2024.

He indicated that whilst the NCAA supports airlines to be profitable because of their critical value to the economy, it is important passengers are treated fairly.

Speaking about the ease of doing business environment at the NCAA, Capt. Najomo said the ease of business is an area the Authority will continue to improve.

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