Michael Gaynor and Paddy Malone represented Dundalk Chamber when Chambers Ireland visited Brussels recently. Dundalk Chamber took the view that our unique exposure to Brexit warranted us sending representatives.
Over two days we met members of the Commission and discussed topics as diverse as Brexit, EU Trade Policy for the SME sector, The Green Agenda and Fiscal policy on the first day
Thomas Lieflander outlined the Commission approach to Brexit and the future Trade agreement. When asked by Paddy Malone did he believe that the checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain would be robust he stated that the UK had, through the Withdrawal Agreement given sufficient assurances to the EU. As the talks on the future relationship had not yet started he was unable to say more. He did concede that the timeline was tight but that the EU would act in good faith.
The meeting with Laurent Javaudin on Trade raised a number of topics as to how the SME sector was being supported by the Commission. This included the impressive MAD (Market Access Database) and the Commission’s ongoing commitment to removing both fiscal and non-fiscal barriers. Michael Gaynor raised the issue of the threat to the Irish cattle trade as a result of the EU-Mercosur agreement. He pointed out that ours was a grass fed natural product. The agreement of Europe to allow the importation of beef from Argentina was hardly eco-friendly.
The third meeting with Quentin Dupriez raised the whole question of Climate Change. The resetting of goals originally to be met by 2050 was now moved to 2030 as a result of the recent elections. All policy initiatives were now to be rigorously assessed as to their impact on Climate Change. As a result there would be a range of new initiatives and strategies to address various sectors including offshore wind, smart sustainable mobility and Energy (carbon) Taxes. There would be EU support for various regions and this would include facilitating coal regions to identify new industries and the support for green energy. Ireland would come under pressure to do more as to date it had not done enough.
The final session on the first day was with Declan Costello who discussed Taxation policy and future growth projections. Growth in the EU was expected to be slow over the medium term due to the aging population, the switch to the Green economy, digitalisation and migration. He made it clear that a digital tax was essential. The Irish position was that this was a global rather than EU matter and should be agreed at OECD level. Declan did point out positives into the future including stronger Social Rights, integrated Unemployment Benefit and other matters
The second day started with meeting MEPS Mairead McGuinness, Frances Fitzgerald, Sean Kelly and Billy Kelleher. Each outlined the functions of the committees that they sat on. Sean Kelly (who was host) spoke of the importance of Chambers Ireland and their European counterparts in shaping policy and legislation.
Mairead spoke of her role as VP of the Parliament and the threats from nationalism and Brexit. She also addressed as did all the Industrial Policy, including the Green Agenda and works rights. Frances raised the issue of competitiveness and the threats to Ireland in this area. Billy Kelleher raised the challenges faced by Ireland from the Consolidated Common Corporate Tax Base.
Paddy Malone pointed out that there were two strands to the CCCTB, namely the tax rate and the special allowances some countries gave. Ireland needs to separate these issues. We have no issue if all countries calculate their profit in the same way, but as things stand the difference between accounting and tax profit in France is considerable, compared to Ireland. Sean Kelly picked this theme up in concluding and agreed with Paddy that this needs to be highlighted more.
The next meet was with Phil Hogan’s team of Dermot Ryan and Tom Tynan. The team gave a comprehensive review of their preparedness for the upcoming negotiations with the UK. While they were working on behalf of the EU there was no doubt that the unique relationship between Ireland and UK will be taken into account.
Their brief also includes US Trade Talks as is China. Paddy Malone took the opportunity to emphasise the positive impact WuXi was already having on Dundalk.
The final session was with the Irish embassy in Belgium, which is two embassies, one to Belgium and a second to EU. Susan O’Reilly represented the former and Eamonn MacAodha the latter. Ireland was now becoming a net contributor to the EU. Taxation Policy and the Green Agenda were again discussed.