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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.

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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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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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