Sunday 24 September 2017

Donohoe focus on Budget support for exporters as sterling crisis deepens

British Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speak after yesterday’s talks in Brussels. Picture: Reuters
British Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speak after yesterday’s talks in Brussels. Picture: Reuters
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said he will be looking at Budget measures to support Irish exporters in the face of the looming sterling crisis.

Speaking after a meeting with the British Chancellor Philip Hammond in Dublin last night, Mr Donohoe said the dramatic fall-off in the value of sterling against the euro since last year's Brexit vote was "exceptionally important" to the Irish economy.

"If you look where we are across 2015, we saw one euro buying around 70p. We now are in a situation as we moved into this week where we saw one euro get to 92p. This is the kind of development that we need to monitor very, very carefully within our economy."

However he said that, despite the massive currency fluctuation, Irish exporters had grown their UK performance by 13pc.

"This is something which is going to be a very important consideration as we frame Budget 2018. It demonstrates the need for us to have a solid foundation for our economy to make right decisions in relation to how we support exporters.

"I will be engaging with my colleagues, particularly Minister Creed and Minister Fitzgerald in relation to what kind of measures to consider that will support exporters in terms of market diversification and in terms of selling our goods and services abroad as we see these kind of currency developments."

Meanwhile, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has claimed that "genuine progress" has been made on Irish matters in the latest round of Brexit talks - a rare moment of positivity in a news conference yesterday that laid bare the gulf between the UK and the EU.

Irish sources believe progress has been made on the issues discussed this week relating to the common travel area (CTA) and the Good Friday Agreement, but that much more technical work remains to be done on the latter, particularly in relation to the maintenance of North/south co-operation post-Brexit.

More broadly, Mr Barnier warned that no decisive progress had been made overall as he stood alongside his British counterpart, David Davis, at the close of the third round of negotiations. He chastised Britain for demanding "the impossible" in its position papers, including having a say on the EU's single-market rules even after it leaves. He said both sides disagreed again on the EU's demand the European Court of Justice had authority in the enforcement of rights of EU citizens in Britain after Brexit.

"The UK wants to take back control, wants to adopt its own standards and regulations - but it also wants to have these standards recognised automatically in the EU," Mr Barnier said. "This is simply impossible. You cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order."

Clear divisions remain regarding the amount of money the UK owes the EU, with Mr Barnier acknowledging that the two parties remain far apart. So to hear that the discussions on Ireland had been "fruitful" was at least one welcome development.

Irish issues were discussed at length on Wednesday, with the EU team putting a range of technical questions to their UK counterparts in terms of the working of the CTA post-Brexit. It is understood these questions included British treatment of other EU citizens vis-à-vis the CTA, with the EU side welcoming the commitment in the UK's position paper that London would have no problem with EU citizens travelling within Ireland.

Mr Davis said the two sides had made "some concrete progress" and that there was a "high degree of convergence" on Irish issues. But on matters relating to the Good Friday Agreement, while there are no differences in principle, much more technical work is said to be required in terms of how North/south co-operation can be maintained, in the absence of common EU rules, after the UK's withdrawal.

It is also understood there are questions around the rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland post-Brexit and how they will be defined under EU law.

Sources here seem content with how matters have progressed in relation to Irish issues.

The thornier Border question in terms of trade and goods, however, has not been dealt with in any substantive way yet.

Irish Independent

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