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UK promises ‘robust’ reaction if EU starts trade war over Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

UK promises ‘robust’ reaction if EU starts trade war over Northern Ireland

The UK will react in a “robust” manner if the EU launches a retaliatory trade war in the event of Brexit talks on Northern Ireland breaking down, the government has warned.

The Brexit minister, David Frost, said he expected the EU to issue its formal response to the UK’s demand for renegotiation of the Northern Ireland protocol within the next 10 days, as he outlined fresh detail on the timeline for talks.

It means a November crunch time for the Democratic Unionist party, which on Monday repeated its threat to quit Northern Ireland’s power-sharing administration and force fresh Stormont elections if substantial progress on ditching the protocol is not made.

Lord Frost said he would then engage with the EU in an “intensive” manner for a “short period” before deciding whether to trigger article 16, the mechanism to suspend parts of the protocol and enter a formal dispute.

“On the talks question, we must do it as quick as possible … The team is ready to go to Brussels,” he said. “We need a short and intensive negotiation, and when I say short, I mean weeks, three weeks.”

“I personally believe there comes a decision point probably around early November when we know an agreement can be reached or it cannot and certain consequences flow from that,” Frost added.

Speaking at a Centre for Brexit Policy event at the Conservative party conference, Frost also warned that if no agreement could be reached, the UK would be “robust” if the EU retaliated by imposing tariffs or other barriers to trade flow between Great Britain and the EU.

“We don’t think retaliation makes any of those things any easier,” he said, but if they did launch trade wars, which could include enforcement action in other parts of the Brexit deal, “proportionality is important”.

Earlier on Monday, the leader of the DUP gave Boris Johnson until the end of October to solve the Northern Ireland protocol row, just hours after the UK issued a veiled threat to the EU that it would pull the plug on the Brexit arrangements.

At a private meeting with the prime minister in Manchester and later at a public event, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned that the party needed him to “take action within weeks” or he would force an election in Northern Ireland.

Donaldson, however, said he was “greatly encouraged” by what Johnson had told him on Monday morning and hoped that significant progress could be made within the next three weeks.

The DUP leader was speaking shortly after Frost said Britain “cannot wait for ever” for the EU to respond to its demands to rewrite the Brexit arrangement.

In a speech to the conference, Frost said he had been waiting since July for a formal request for substantial changes to the protocol, which the UK has largely suspended over objections to checks on a range of goods, including sausages.

“We cannot wait for ever. Without an agreed solution soon, we will need to act, using the article 16 safeguard mechanism, to address the impact the protocol is having on Northern Ireland,” he said.

Setting the scene for an imminent triggering of article 16, he said he was not confident that the EU would meet his demands.

“From what I hear, I worry that we will not get one [a response] which enables the significant change we need,” Frost said. .

The government is also coming under renewed pressure from the European Research Group of MPs to ditch the protocol completely.

The chair of the influential group of backbench Tory MPs, Mark Francois, said its members knew the protocol was flawed when they voted for the withdrawal agreement in January 2020, but went into it with their “eyes wide open”. He said the group viewed the protocol as unfinished business at the time and had faith in Frost and Johnson’s ability to renegotiate the arrangements.

David Trimble, one of the architects of the 1998 Northern Ireland peace accord, said there was little point in waiting for the EU to renegotiate the protocol. “They will never change their position. We need to repudiate the entire arrangement.”

The EU’s ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida, said there was nothing strange or unexpected in Frost’s speech, promising a response to the UK’s demands within the coming weeks.

Business

35 illegal tax collectors facing prosecution in Benue

The Acting Chairman of the Benue State Internal Revenue Service (BIRS), Emmanuel Agena, has revealed that 35 persons involved in illegal tax collection in the state are currently facing prosecution.

Agena announced that the agency has set an ambitious target to generate over N16 billion in revenue for the year 2024 following the successful surpassing of its N14 billion target in 2023.

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Agena expressed concern over the activities of illegal tax collectors in the state, noting that many of them were supported by influential personalities.

He stated that his administration at the BIRS had put an end to the era of patronage by politicians, aiming to significantly reduce illegal tax collection activities.

The BIRS boss also condemned a recent incident in which a truck carrying palliatives from Adamawa to Anambra State was hijacked by youths in Aliade, Gwer East.

He disclosed that three suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.

“A truck was intercepted and the driver beaten while the windscreen of the vehicle broken and over N200,000 was stolen.

“Three persons have been arrested and are in police custody. They will be moved to DSS for thorough investigation.

“We aim to flush out or reduce illegal tax collectors to the barest minimum. Already, 35 people who engaged in illegal tax collection were arrested and facing prosecution.

“This has been a big challenge. We have constituted a team headed by the director of Tax collection. Prominent people in the state are involved in encouraging these boys,” he stated.

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Nigeria’s Inflation rate hits 33.20% in March- NBS

The National Bureau of Statistics NBS says Nigeria’s inflation rate jumped to 33.20% in March 2024 compared to February 2024 headline inflation rate which was 31.70%.

A report released by the NBS on Monday, April 15, reads

“Looking at the movement, the March 2024 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 1.50% points when compared to the February 2024 headline inflation rate.

“On a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 11.16% points higher compared to the rate recorded in March 2023, which was 22.04%. On a month-on-month basis, the headline inflation rate in March 2024 was 3.02%, which was 0.10% lower than the rate recorded in February 2024 (3.12%).

“This means that in the month of March 2024, the rate of increase in the average price level is less than the rate of increase in the average price level in February 2024.”

 

The inflation report by the NBS followed the hike of Nigeria’s interest rate from 22.75% to 24.75% by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The March inflation rate was released at a time when measures by the apex bank to strenghten the naira against foreign exchange have seen some positive results.

The naira has appreciated against the dollar in recent weeks, gaining over 40%, from about N1,900/$ to about N1,100/$1 now.

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NAFDAC seals popular Supermarket in Ibadan

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) has sealed a popular groceries and cosmetics supermarket, Pinnacle in Dugbe area of Ibadan over sale of fake products.

The supermarket, usually a beehive of activities was now a shadow of itself as the gate leading to the premises was shut with an inscription directing customers to its branch at Challenge.

Management of the supermarket cited technical issues as reason for its closure.

An inside source who pleaded for anonymity however revealed that problem started on Tuesday, 2nd April , 2024 when NAFDAC surveillance team stormed the mall to enforce total shutdown of the premises, thereby forcing shoppers out of the supermarket.

“The NAFDAC team came inside the mall and told us to close, even though people were many inside who wanted to do shopping but they couldn’t because the technical issue started and they all went away in disappointment”, the source said.

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