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Ten days to crack #Brexit deal, EU tells May

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The European Union handed Prime Minister Theresa May a 10-day “absolute deadline” to improve her Brexit divorce offer or face failure in persuading EU leaders to open trade talks with Britain at a December summit, write Alastair Macdonald and Elizabeth Piper.

Without a deal next month, time will be very tight to agree arrangements before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, adding to pressure on businesses to avoid potential losses and move investments.

“We need to see progress from UK within 10 days on all issues, including on Ireland,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted after meeting May in Brussels for one hour following an EU summit.

A deal on the Northern Ireland border became suddenly trickier on Friday as the Dublin government looked set to fall.

Tusk said it was still possible the other 27 EU leaders would conclude at a summit on Dec. 14-15 that Britain had made “sufficient progress” toward meeting three key conditions for them to approve the opening of trade talks in the new year.

But, added the former Polish premier who chairs the bloc’s summit meetings, that was “still a huge challenge”.

EU officials expect the crunch to come when May returns on Monday, 4 December, to meet the EU chief executive, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and his chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

“Tusk presented the timeline...with 4 December as the absolute deadline for the UK to make additional efforts, allowing Barnier to be in a position to recommend sufficient progress,” an EU official said. “May agreed to this time frame.”

“The UK will need to give credible assurances as to how to avoid a hard border before December 4, as it is still unclear how this can be done,” the official added.

A further complication lay in Ireland, where Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who has warned of a veto without big British moves on the border issue, may call a snap election next week over a separate issue.

May told reporters after meeting Tusk that the two sides were still making progress toward closing gaps on a financial settlement, rights for expatriates after Brexit and how to avoid a “hard border” that may disrupt the peace in Northern Ireland.

But she added: “There are still issues across the various matters that we are negotiating on to be resolved.”

She repeated a line she first used in September that Britain would “honour our commitments”. But there was no sign of details that EU counterparts are demanding over payments before they accede to London’s call for talks on a post-Brexit trade pact.

On the Irish border, May said: “We and the Irish government continue to talk about solutions for that. We have the same desire. We want to ensure that movement of people and trade across that border can carry on as now.”

 For months, the EU’s demand for Britain to pay something like 60 billion euro ($72 billion) has seemed the toughest nut to crack. But EU negotiators have been encouraged by apparent leaks in the British media indicating that May has won backing from Brexit hardliners in her cabinet to offer a large sum.

Now, Ireland could be a sticking point.

“The Irish issue is very worrying. The chances of sufficient progress in December were only 50-50. Now maybe less,” an official handling Brexit talks from one of the other 27 EU states told Reuters on the sidelines of Friday’s summit.

Barnier threw the Union’s weight behind Ireland on Friday, telling Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney there was “strong solidarity for Ireland” and “Irish issues are EU issues”.

Coveney, who accused the government’s opponents of being irresponsible in calling a no-confidence motion for Tuesday over an unrelated issue, said Ireland would not agree to opening EU trade talks with Britain if it was unhappy over the border.

May’s Northern Irish, pro-Brexit allies, on whom she depends for a slim parliamentary majority, accused Dublin of trying to force Northern Ireland, or the whole of the United Kingdom, to stay in a customs union with the EU, depriving it of the freedom to set its own commercial regulations.

EU officials say the best way to avoid a “hard border” is to keep regulations the same - whether just for Northern Ireland or across the UK. Britain has rejected the former because it would divide Northern Ireland from the British mainland. Brexit campaigners say Britain should not have to follow EU rules.

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113 US and EU organizations urge EU and US to Lift retaliatory tariffs on products unrelated to transatlantic trade disputes

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In advance of the upcoming EU-US summit in Brussels, the undersigned 113 organizations reiterate our call for the permanent removal of tariffs on sectors unrelated to the ongoing transatlantic trade disputes. The transatlantic relationship is of enormous economic importance to our sectors, and spiritsEUROPE is eager to see it protected and nurtured. spiritsEUROPE welcomes the positive steps to de-escalate the disputes over the past few months and hope that both sides can build on this positive momentum to secure the permanent removal of retaliatory tariffs on our products.

"We are encouraged by the decision to temporarily suspend tariffs imposed in connection to the World Trade Organization Airbus-Boeing disputes and by the ongoing US and EU efforts to settle the dispute before the suspension ends. Our strong desire is to see an agreement before 11 July to permanently remove these tariffs. However, predictability is essential for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. Our sectors, therefore, request advance notice that the tariffs will not return, even if there is a need for additional time to negotiate, to account for shipping times between the EU and the US.

"We are also encouraged by the recent US-EU joint statement on addressing global steel and aluminium excess capacity, and commend the EU’s decision to postpone the second tranche of rebalancing tariffs until 1 December. While this six-month respite provides reassurance to affected sectors, we call on both parties to secure an agreement before the December deadline to permanently remove existing tariffs and not to introduce new tariffs. Indeed, products across a range of sectors continue to face destructive tariffs that are harming competitiveness and negatively impacting manufacturers, producers, farmers and logistics providers and many others on both sides of the Atlantic.

"We are hopeful the recent positive momentum in both disputes will lead to the permanent removal of tariffs on unrelated sectors and an agreement not to introduce new tariffs in these transatlantic disputes. We call on our leaders to intensify negotiations to ensure that this happens without delay. Removing tariffs on unrelated sectors is essential to create the necessary certainty and stability to grow the transatlantic economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Securing the permanent removal of tariffs on unrelated sectors will also allow both sides to establish a positive transatlantic trade agenda and focus on common areas of interest."

List of signatories

ACEM - European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers

Agriculture Transportation Association

AIJN - European Fruit Juices Association

American Apparel & Footwear Association

American Bakers Association

American Beverage Licensees

American Chemistry Council

American Craft Spirits Association

American Cranberry Growers Association

American Distilled Spirits Alliance

American Distilling Institute

American Farm Bureau Federation

American Peanut Council

American Single Malt Whiskey Commission

American Soybean Association

American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute

APPLiA - Home Appliance Europe

Arizona Craft Distillers Guild

Associated Equipment Distributors

Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association

BNIC - Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac

California Artisanal Distillers Guild

CAOBISCO - Chocolate, Biscuits and Confectionery of Europe

Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association

CECE - Committee for European Construction Equipment

CECIMO - European Association of the Machine Tool Industries

CEEV - Comité Européen des Entreprises Vin

CEFIC - The European Chemical Industry Council

CEMA  - European Agricultural Machinery Industry Association

CEO - Comité Européen de l'Outillage

Cheese Importers Association of America

CLITRAVI - Liaison Centre for the Meat Processing Industry in the European Union

COCERAL - European association of trade in cereals, oilseeds, pulses, olive oil, oils and fats, animal feed and agrosupply

Colorado Distillers Guild

Connecticut Spirits Trail

Corn Refiners Association

Cranberry Institute

CRN - Council for Responsible Nutrition

Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

Distillers Association of North Carolina

Drinks Ireland

ECCIA - Europan Cultural and Creative Industries Alliance

ECF - European Coffee Federation

EDA - European Dairy Association

EFFA - European Flavour Association

EPTA - European Power Tools Association

Espirituosos España - Federación Española de Espirituosos

EUCOLAIT - European Association of Dairy Trade

EURATEX - The European Apparel and Textile Confederation

EUROMAT - European Gaming and Amusement Federation

European Boating Industry

Farmers for Free Trade

FEC - Federation of European manufacturers of Cookware and cutlery

FEMA - Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States

FEVS - Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins & Spiritueux de France

Florida Citrus Mutual

Florida Citrus Packers

Florida Craft Spirits Association

Food Export-Northeast

Freshfel Europe - The European Fresh Produce Association

FRUCOM - European Federation of the Trade in Dried Fruit, Edible Nuts, Processed Fruit & Vegetables and Processed Fishery Products

Idaho Distillers Association

Illinois Craft Distillers Association

Independent Restaurant Coalition

Intergraf - European federation for print and digital communication

Iowa Distillers Alliance

Kentucky Distillers’ Association

Louisiana Distillers Guild

Maryland Distillers Guild

Michigan Craft Distillers Association

Montana Distillers Guild

Napa Valley Vintners

National Association of Beverage Importers

National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

National Association of Wine Retailers

National Council of Chain Restaurants

National Fisheries Institute

National Grain and Feed Association

National Restaurant Association

National Retail Federation

NCA - National Confectioners Association

New Hampshire Distillers Guild

New Jersey Craft Distillers Guild

New York State Distillers Guild

NMMA - National Marine Manufacturers Association

North American Shippers Association

NY Wine Industry Association

Ohio Distiller’s Guild

Oregon Distillers Guild

Oregon Wine Council

Pennsylvania Distillers Guild

Personal Care Products Council

PROFEL - European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processing Industries

South Carolina Craft Distillers Guild

spiritsEUROPE

Tennessee Distillers Guild

Texas Distilled Spirits Association

The Maryland Wineries Association

U.S. GRAINS COUNCIL

U.S. Wine Trade Alliance

United States Bartenders’ Guild

United States Sweet Potato Council

USA Rice

USMMA - United States Motorcycle Manufacturers Association

Virginia Distillers Association

Washington Wine Institute

West Coast Seafood Processors Association

Willamette Valley Wineries Association

Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America

Wine and Spirits Shippers Association

Wine Institute

WineAmerica

Wisconsin State Cranberry Association

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The money-making business of ministerial life after politics

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Life after politics can be a daunting prospect. But, for some, after many years in government, possibly as career politicians, entering the private sector also opens-up a host of opportunities, and financial reward that were once, technically, off-limits.

No-one goes into politics in the UK to make money, just ask Boris Johnson. However, the status that comes with having held a position in high-office often attracts significant and lucrative opportunities for those once they leave the corridors of Westminster behind. George Osborne is a notable example, who, among the 10 private sector jobs he undertook after leaving office, secured a £650,000 a year advisory role with BlackRock. Tony Blair in early 2008 joined US investment bank JP Morgan as a ‘senior advisor’, reportedly earning him six-figures for three 90-minute appearances a year.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) is the government watchdog that sets the rules for out-going MPs, Ministers and other senior civil servants on what they can and cannot do within the first two years of leaving office. Current guidelines suggest Ministers wait a minimum of three months after leaving government before undertaking a paid private sector role and are required to seek advice by the committee who will assess the merits of the role, and whether, it will be seen as a reward for previous work carried out in office, or whether the former post will give rise to an unfair advantage, at which time, a prospect may be deemed ‘unsuitable’. However, Acoba has no official powers to enforce, and there are several examples where Ministers have chosen to ignore recommendations, including the incumbent Prime minister Boris Johnson, who re-joined the Telegraph immediately after his brief tenure at the helm of the Foreign Office.

Former Prime Minister, David Cameron, has also recently made headlines after his ties to Greensill Capital were exposed. He faces allegations that he exploited his position and his network in order to seek preferential access to state funding for the bank, claims he strongly denies. The now collapsed bank, led by disgraced financier Lex Greensill has left the UK taxpayer with a bill of more than £1 billion.

As an advisor to the bank, he lobbied government heavily and in return, was handsomely rewarded. While no figures have been made public, he admits to having a large economic interest in the bank’s success, telling MPs: “By anyone’s terms, it was a generous salary”.  

Appearing in front of the Treasury Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee last week, Cameron was grilled for four hours over a series of now public messages he sent to Ministers, MP’s and other government officials lobbying on behalf of the bank. Such was his voracity and insistence that Labour MP Angela Eagle accused him of effectively stalking, rather than lobbying, while another MP criticised him for bringing the office of the Prime Minister into disrepute.

Malcolm Rifkind, former Foreign Secretary and Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, is another politician who found himself in hot water, following a ‘cash for access’ scandal in 2015 while still in office. Since choosing to stand down, he has taken on several board positions at various advisory outfits, including 17 Arm, a firm involved in the questionable business of unregulated litigation funding and asset recovery.

Founded by the controversial businessman Paddy Meade, the 8th Earl of Clanwilliam, the Dubai based company is not a member of the Association of Litigation Funders (ALF) and therefore, unlike others in the field, does not operate under any established codes of conduct, nor does it raise capital for cases on the open market through institutional investors like others, leaving a large question mark over the source of its funds.

17 Arm made recent headlines when The Guardian reported they were funding the case bought by Alexander Tugushev against his former associate, Vitaly Orlov, which has been playing out in the British courts since 2018.

Tugushev, himself a former government official in his role as Deputy Chairman of the (then) State Fisheries Committee of the Russian Federation, is a convicted fraudster, who, in 2007, was sentenced to six years in prison in Russia for abusing his position in public office and taking illicit payments and bribes. He is also the subject of several other open criminal investigations in Russia, including an indictment for fraud committed against Mr Orlov that is now procedurally attached to a separate case in which Tugushev is subject to an international arrest warrant on charges related to fraud committed against Mr Alexander Sychev.

It is not clear who is financing 17 Arm regarding this case, with Tugushev going so far as to pay £7.8 million in securities to cover legal costs to avoid identifying his backers, who are alleged to be possible rivals of Orlov’s fishing company Norebo and individuals from the Russian criminal under-world looking to cash in.

The practice of former government officials using their networks and experience to cash-in on lucrative business deals is not new.  In fact, why would a firm add a costly former government official to their payroll if not because of the doors they can open? Across every industry almost every outgoing official in recent years, from both sides of the chamber have moved into the private sector.  

In most cases, as questionable as these relationships and deals may look from the outside, no rules have apparently been broken, instead the system is simply manipulated to the benefit of individuals like Lex Greensill, and even wanted criminals like Tugushev, who try to gain credibility by riding the tailcoats of these connected and influential individuals.

For the likes of respected figures such as Rifkind and former public prosecutor, Ken Macdonald to be tied to such individuals demonstrates the need for reform and strengthening of Acoba, which has so far proven ineffective in ensuring former officials do not bring into question the integrity of the British political institutions.

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EU leaders meet to adopt Porto Declaration on employment, skills and social protection

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The Porto Social Summit aims to give a political impetus to the implementation of the European pillar of social rights and its action plan. Leaders are expected to adopt a Porto Declaration endorsing three EU-level targets in the areas of employment, skills and social protection to be achieved by 2030.

On the 8th, leaders will discuss the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights at EU and national level, as established by the EU Strategic Agenda 2019-2024. As the EU recovers from the pandemic, leaders will focus on protecting, creating and improving job quality. They will also discuss how to support young people who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan is made up of 20 principles to guide the construction of a stronger, fairer and more inclusive Europe, filled with opportunities. The initial proposal dates from the Gothenburg summit  in 2017. The Porto Summit aims to turn these principles into action that will lead to concrete results for EU citizens. 

The Action plan provides guidance for the implementation and sets three main targets to be achieved throughout Europe by 2030: an employment rate of at least 78% in the European Union, at least 60% of adults attending training courses every year, and reducing the number of people at risk of social exclusion or poverty by at least 15 million people, including 5 million children. 

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