Public policy centre

Welcome to Chartered Accountants Ireland’s public policy centre.

We use our research to inform the public policy debate both nationally and internationally.

This week we look at the role MEPs play in the European Parliament as well as the political manifestos of some of the larger parties in the Parliament. The role of MEPs in the European Parliament MEPs represent the interests of EU citizens as well as those of their city or region in Europe. MEPs engage with people who have local and national concerns, interest groups and businesses. MEPs can question and lobby the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. MEPs also have an important role to play on issues of concern for the people of the EU such as climate change, human rights and the way in which financial markets are regulated. Daily workload An MEPs’ daily workload is split between work for their constituents back in their home country, their work in the Parliamentary committees, the debates in their political groups as well as debates and votes in the plenary sessions. MEPs attend many meetings including that of their Parliamentary committees and their political groups. They may also be part of a delegation for relations with non EU-countries which might require occasional travel outside the EU. Parliamentary committees MEPs are divided up into a number of specialised committees.  This is done in order to carry out preparatory work for the Parliament’s plenary sittings.  At the moment, there are 20 such committees.  Between 25 and 73 MEPs make up a committee and the political balance of the committee reflects that of the overall Parliament.  The committees meet once or twice per month in Brussels, draw up the subjects to be discussed by MEPs and hold public debates.  The committees draw up, amend and adopt legislative proposals and own-initiative reports. They consider Commission and Council proposals and, where necessary, draw up reports to be presented to the plenary assembly. Examples of committees are Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and Budgetary Control. Sub-committees can also be established to investigate specific issues. Political groupings Last week we looked at the 8 political parties that MEPs can align themselves with.  This week we look at the main points contained within the manifesto’s of the four largest parties in the EU at the 2014 elections. The EPP – Group of the European People’s Party The EPP wants to renew Europe.  It wants to protect EU citizens by joining together to stop illegal migration, fight terrorism and organised crime and combat climate change. In terms of protecting EU borders, the EPP wants to appoint 10,000 new officers with the latest technology. The party wants equal opportunities for women in the labour market and also wants to improve trade defence and systematic foreign investment screening to protect jobs.  The party wants to create five million additional jobs by negotiating new free trade deals and supporting entrepreneurism.  The EPPs want fair taxes for everyone including the introduction of a “Digital Fair Tax”. Read the party’s manifesto.  The S&D – Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament The S&D want to change the leadership and policy direction of the EU; leading to an EU that better serves its people.  The party wants the EU to overcome inequality, fight for tax justice, tackle climate change, manage migration, ensure fair agricultural transformation and take advantage of the digital revolution. The party wants to ensure fairness for all EU citizens and reduce the concentration of wealth and property in the hands of the few.  Poverty must be prevented by building strong welfare states, having a decent minimum wage and quality public services.  The party wants to bring an end to austerity policies, reform the Eurozone and its budget.  The party will continue its fight against tax evasion, tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning and proposes that profits are taxed where they are generated.   In terms of migration, the party wants a fair common asylum and migration policy across Europe that’s built on solidarity with the other member states and cooperation with countries of origin and transit. Read the party’s manifesto. The ECR – The European Conservatives and Reformists Group The ECR wants to see an EU that goes back to basics, and delivers results on the core reasons why Member States joined the EU in the first place. The ECR Group is working hard to ensure that the EU decentralises powers back to national capitals, town halls and to families and individuals. The ECR Group will continue to promote a wider agenda of a long-term plan of European reform as the means of making the EU more flexible, open and economically vibrant. The party believes that European laws and policies should only be adopted where absolutely necessary and when they add value for the citizens. The EU should better attempt to end over-regulation, excessive bureaucracy and intrusions into areas of national sovereignty. The party believes that Europe must be allowed to develop flexibly so that countries can together pursue scientific, energy, transport, industrial and cultural projects of genuine European interest. Read the party’s manifesto. ALDE – Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe The ALDE has a liberal vision and wants to develop individual freedoms, prosperity and stability and move away from times of nationalism and growing authoritarianism.  The ALDE want a free, democratic, entrepreneurial, prosperous, sustainable and united Europe that is open to the world. The party wants the EU to lead in a changing world and wants the Member States to better reach compromises on reform within the EU and move away from the status quo.  The party wants to reform EU institutions, boost infrastructure, invest in education and make Europe ready for digitalisation.  The ALDE wants a common rule for migration and asylum and to simplify bureaucracy and ensure equal opportunities for citizens. They believe that more trade deals should be sought by the EU and SMEs must be supported to encourage job creation and entrepreneurism. The party wants the EU to become a carbon neutral economy and wants a single European energy market to be completed.  Read the party’s manifesto.  Next week we will look in more detail at the manifestos of the other political parties as well as a focus on some of the tax policies.

May 02, 2019

As canvassing begins for May’s European Parliament elections, this week we take a look at how the EU is structured with a particular focus on the operations of the European Parliament. The EU’s institutions The European Institutions are made up primarily of the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council of the European Union. The European Parliament is the only directly elected EU body and represents the EU’s 508 million people; making it one of the biggest parliaments in the world. The European Council and the Council of the European Union represent the governments of the member states.  The European Council sets the EU’s broad priorities and comprises national Heads of State or Government, the President of the Commission and President of the European Council. The Council of the European Union represents the governments of the individual member states and the Presidency of the Council is shared by the member states by rotation. The Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) is one of the more well-known configurations of the Council of the European Union and is composed of the economics and finance ministers of the 28 EU member states. Other EU institutions are: The European Commission which proposes and implements EU laws; The Court of Justice which is the highest court in matters of EU law and ensures equal application of EU law across all Member States; The Court of Auditors which audits EU finances; and The European Central Bank which is the central bank for Europe’s single currency, and maintains the euro’s purchasing power and price stability in the euro area. The role of the European Parliament As the only elected institution of the EU, the European Parliament has a role to guard human rights and democracy in the EU and beyond.  Members of the Parliament are primarily responsible for representing citizens at EU level and defending their interests to EU leaders and the institutions of the EU. The Parliament decides jointly with the Council of the EU on laws that affect the daily lives of EU citizens through the use of parliamentary committees.  Such laws include freedom of travel, consumer protection, food safety and the environment.  The Parliament also has budgetary powers. Along with the Council of the European Union, a 7 year financial framework is adopted and the annual budget is approved.  It also monitors that EU funds are correctly used. Approval by the Parliament is required for most international agreements and treaties concluded by the EU and that includes the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU. Parliament also has a role in electing the President of the European Commission.  The structure of the European Parliament 8 political groups and 751 MEPs made up the European Parliament during the last 5 year term (2014 – 2019) with the following allocation:   Party name Seats 2014-19 Ireland UK EPP Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) 217 4 0 S&D Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament 189 1 20 ECR European Conservatives and Reformists Group 74 1 21 ALDE Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe 68 1 1 GUE/NGL Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left 52 4 1 Greens/EFA Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance 51 0 6 EFDD Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group 42 0 20 ENF Europe of Nations and Freedom 40 0 1 NI Non-attached members 18 0 3   Total 751 11 73   Each group must have a minimum number of members (normally 25) and have representatives from at least one quarter of the member states.  Non-attached members are members who don’t belong to any political group.  How do MEPs sit in the Parliament? MEPs are elected for a five-year term from elections held in their home country.  Seats are divided among the member states in proportion to their population. MEPS are grouped by parties and not by their nationality. Similar to the way we elect councillors to work on local issues and TDs and MPs to deal with national issues, MEPs are elected to deal with issues at EU level. Debates take place in the Parliament and are translated into each European language that is in use by the member states. MEPs can change EU laws by submitting amendments to the Parliament. Some examples of laws that are passed by MEPs that affect our daily lives include: How many hours employees in the EU can be required to work and their entitlement to holidays and rest periods Mobile phone roaming rates when you travel to another EU country Safety legislation around children’s toys Safe drinking water and swimming water Studying in other EU countries Changing seasonal (summer and winter) time The President of the European Parliament The President is elected for a renewable term of two and a half years.  This is half the lifetime of one Parliament.  The President oversees the work of the Parliament, takes part in parliamentary debates and represents the Parliament in dealings with other EU institutions and the rest of the world. Each new President is nominated by the European Council and formally elected by the Parliament.  The current President is Antonio Tajani who has taken been in office since 2017 and his current term will end at the time of the European elections. Parliamentary committees MEPs are divided up into a number of specialised committees.  This is done in order to carry out preparatory work for the Parliament’s plenary sittings.  At the moment, there are 20 such committees.  Between 25 and 73 MEPs make up a committee and the political balance of the committee reflects that of the overall Parliament.  The committees meet once or twice per month in Brussels, draw up the subjects to be discussed by MEPs and hold public debates.  The committees draw up, amend and adopt legislative proposals and own-initiative reports. They consider Commission and Council proposals and, where necessary, draw up reports to be presented to the plenary assembly. Examples of committees are Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and Budgetary Control. Sub-committees can also be established to investigate specific issues. The delegations of the European Parliament The Parliament’s delegations maintain relations and exchange information with parliaments in non-EU countries. These delegations help to represent the EU externally. For more information on the European Parliament and how it works visit the European Parliament website. Next week we will look in more detail at the role of MEPs and what type of policies the Parliaments decides upon.

Apr 25, 2019
Tax

This week we take a break from our usual Brexit bulletin to look at the European Parliament elections which are happening across the EU between 23 and 26 May 2019.  Over 700 MEPs will be elected to serve a term of 5 years.  In this week’s edition, we explain how the elections work in Ireland and the UK.  When do the elections take place in Ireland and the UK? In Ireland, the vote will take place on Friday, 24 May 2019. In the UK, the vote will take place on Thursday 23 May 2019; if they happen at all.   If the UK can agree and legislate on a way to leave the EU by 22 May, the vote will not take place. How often do the elections take place? Every five years. Why are they important? The European Parliament is the only directly elected EU Institution, and what is decided in the Parliament over the next five years will have a direct impact on the lives of EU citizens. Voting in the European Parliament elections gives citizens a say over the future direction of the EU. Find out what the EU does in your area using this link. How many MEPs will be elected in 2019? In May 2019, EU citizens will elect over 700 members (MEPs) to represent them at the European Parliament until 2024. Ireland will elect 13 MEPs and the UK will elect a maximum of 73.  MEPs voted last year to abolish 46 of the UK’s 73 seats (and put aside for future enlargement) and allocate the remaining 27 to other member states.  The plan was to reduce the number of MEPs elected from 751 to 705. This seat redistribution is on hold pending a decision on whether the UK will take part in the elections.   So for example this could mean that if the UK contests the European elections, two Irish MEPs would not take up their seats immediately (the additional seats allocated in Dublin and South). How many constituencies are in Ireland and the UK? There are three European constituencies in Ireland; Midlands-North-West, South and Dublin.  Midlands-North-West comprises the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Leitrim, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Westmeath and the city of Galway.  4 MEPs will be elected. The South Constituency comprises the counties of Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow; the cities and counties of Limerick and Waterford and Cork city.  5 MEPs will be elected. Dublin comprises Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, South Dublin and the city of Dublin.  4 MEPs will be elected. You can see which constituency your area belongs to in Ireland. In the UK, there are twelve regions: nine in England, and one each for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  3 MEPs will be elected in Northern Ireland. You can see which constituency your area belongs to in the UK. Who is eligible to become an MEP? In Ireland MEPs must be: Citizens of Ireland or a resident EU citizen; Over 21 years of age and Not be disqualified for any of the following reasons In the UK, MEPs must be: Over 18 years of age A British or Irish citizen; an eligible Commonwealth citizen; or a citizen of any other member state of the EU resident in the UK or Gibraltar Not be disqualified for any of the following reasons How are MEPs elected in Ireland? Ireland uses a form of proportional representation called the single transferable vote. This means that voters rank the candidates (1,2,3 etc.), as many or as few as they wish, in order of choice.  In order to be elected, a candidate needs to receive a quota (a minimum number of votes).  If the votes obtained by any candidate surpass the quota, they are immediately elected. All surplus votes obtained by an elected candidate are then transferred to other candidates according to voters’ preferences. Votes are then recounted and other candidates who clear the quota are also elected. Candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated with their votes transferred to the voters’ second preference. The transfer of votes and elimination of candidates continues until all seats are filled. How are MEPs elected in the UK? Proportional representation is also used in the UK – although the method differs between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In England, Scotland and Wales, MEPs are elected using the D’Hondt system within each region. Parties draw up regional lists of candidates which they share with the electorate. The party that wins the most votes can elect the MEP. The winning party’s vote total is then halved, and the party with the highest tally in the second re-ordered list can send an MEP to Brussels. This process is repeated until all candidates for the region are appointed. Northern Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote system. Voters rank candidates in order of preference and once votes have been cast, a quota is determined. Any candidate who achieves the quota outright will be elected. The lowest ranked candidates are eliminated, and votes are transferred to other candidates. Who can vote? Irish and other EU citizens’ resident in Ireland and UK and other EU citizens’ resident in the UK and aged 18 or over can vote in person provided they register before the deadline, which is 14 days before polling day in Ireland and by 6 May 2019 in the UK.  I am a citizen of another EU country but live in Ireland – can I vote? If you are permanent resident in Ireland since 1 September 2018 but from another European country, you can vote in Ireland’s election. But you must register to vote before 10 May (14 days before polling day) at the latest. If you are an EU citizen resident in Ireland who wishes to register their vote in Ireland, you can download the EP1 from checktheregister.ie in order to be added to the Register of Electors. You may not be able to vote in your home country. I am a citizen of another EU country but live in the UK – can I vote? EU citizens resident in the UK are allowed to vote in the UK elections.  You do need to fill in an additional form called the European Parliament voter registration form.   The purpose of this form is to get you to declare that you are going to vote in the European elections in the UK only, rather than in your home country. Citizens of the Republic of Ireland who are resident in the UK can vote in the UK.  You are not allowed to vote in the European elections in two countries. For more information use this link. Where will the results be published? The results of the 2019 European elections will be available on election-results.eu. Initial results should be available from 26 May 2019. More information For more information on the European elections in Ireland, use this link.  For more information in the UK, please use this link. Next week we will look at in more detail what MEPs do and how the European Parliament operates.  

Apr 23, 2019

Pensions in Ireland - A responsible way forward

A significant majority of Chartered Accountants are worried about Ireland's pension deficit and favour pension auto-enrolment to guard against poverty in retirement.

In its research report, Chartered Accountants Ireland examines the challenge of an ageing population in Ireland, the reasons that some private sector workers do not provide for their pensions and also looks at a number of different pension funding models used in other countries.

Chartered Accountants Ireland has over 26,000 members working in every sector on the island of Ireland, and is uniquely placed to identify the challenges that the pension deficit will bring.

Read our report on the PDF below.

CTA - Pensions in Ireland-min
NEWS BODY - Pensions in Ireland A responsible way forward-min

Seminar : Pensions under the spotlight
Chartered Accountants Ireland’s members engaged in a comprehensive discussion on the private pension crisis in Ireland at a seminar with Institute President Shauna Greely held in Dublin last Tuesday evening (6 March 2018). 

The event also saw the formal launch of the Institute’s report Pensions in Ireland: A responsible way forward which advocates auto-enrolment. View photos from the event >>>