Public Policy

In this week’s Public Policy news, read how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented her vision to make Europe green, digital and more resilient; what official figures reveal about the labour market in the UK; and how Ireland has extended its redundancy provisions to help reduce insolvencies, bankruptcies and further job losses.A green, digital and more resilient Europe This week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave her State of the European Union address where she set out her vision to make Europe become green, digital and more resilient. Key points covered were:Protecting Health: Building a stronger European health union in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak with measures such as:an EU4Health programme; a reinforced European Medicines Agency (EMA);a strengthened European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC); anda new European agency for biomedical advanced research and development (BARDA).Protecting livelihoods: protecting workers by introducing a legal framework for setting minimum wages and protecting businesses from external shocks; and boosting the single market by reinforcing the Economic and Social Union, getting the Schengen area working in full again and updating the EU’s industry strategy and competition framework.Reinforcing the Green Deal:increasing the emissions-reduction target from 40 percent to 55 percent by 2030 to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and meet Paris Agreement obligationsrevising all of the EU’s climate and energy legislation by summer 2021;raising 30 percent of the €750 billion #NextGenerationEU budget through green bonds; and investing 37 percent of that funding in European Green Deal objectives.Leading a Digital Transformation : 20 percent of NextGenerationEU’s budget will be invested in moves to create a common plan for ‘digital Europe’ with connectivity, skills and digital public services.Deeping Global Relations: revitalising and reforming the multilateral system, including the World Trade Organisation and World Health Organisation; building agreements and relationships with the US, the UK and Africa; and building global agreements on ethical, human rights and environmental issues, and on digital taxation.Deliver a new Pact on Migration, with an approach based on humanity and solidarity.A first annual Rule of Law report covering all Member States.A European anti-racism action plan, with the appointment of an anti-racism coordinator, as well as strengthened racial equality laws.More on the vision for Europe can be read here. Labour market statistics reveal unemployment rates for the UK Employment data published this week shows that the overall rate of unemployment in the UK grew from 3.9 percent to 4.1 percent from May to July of 2020. The majority of job losses were among those aged between 16 and 24. According to official figures, almost half of those furloughed since May returned to work by mid-August rather than into unemployment or inactivity; however, it is expected that employment will fall more sharply and unemployment will increase more quickly as the furlough scheme nears its end in November. In Northern Ireland, labour market statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency on the same day revealed that proposed and confirmed redundancies more than doubled since August 2019, with record high numbers recorded in June and July. However, the Northern Ireland unemployment rate (2.9 percent) for the period May-July 2020 remains below the UK rate (4.1 percent), the European Union (27 Member States) rate (6.7 percent) for May 2020 and the Republic of Ireland rate (5.3 percent) for June 2020. Extension of Ireland’s redundancy provision On 15 September the Government approved an extension of the redundancy provisions relating to temporary lay-off and short-time work. Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD announced that the measure, which suspends redundancy provisions – and which arose as a result of COVID-19 – will remain in place until 30 November. Describing the measures as necessary to “ensure businesses survive and that permanent job losses are avoided as much as possible”, Minister Humphreys reminded employees who remain on lay-off or short-time work for the requisite period that they will be entitled to exercise their right to claim redundancy from their employer when this emergency measure expires, and that all other redundancy provisions such as notice periods and payments of redundancy lump sums still apply, as does the existing employment rights legislation.Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.

Sep 18, 2020
Public Policy

In this week’s Public Policy news, read how Ireland has officially entered recession, how the new National Waste Action Plan for a Circular economy intends to move the focus from disposal to production, about two support schemes now available for Northern Ireland businesses, and how the EU plans to make a more resilient green and digital future Europe.Ireland enters recession following biggest quarterly drop ever recordedThe latest quarterly national accounts released by the Central Statistics Office last week showed that Ireland’s economy has officially entered recession. Ireland’s GDP has contracted by 6.1 percent during the second quarter of 2020. A recession is defined as the GDP contracting two quarters in a row. Consumer spending decreased by 19.6 percent, while industry and government spending increased by 7.5 percent.  Overall economic activity was partly offset by an increase of €37.8 billion in net exports of goods and services in Q2. The following sectors contracted significantly: Construction: 38.3 percentDistribution, transport, hotels and restaurants: 30.3 percentAgriculture, forestry and fishing: 60.6 percentArts and entertainment: 65.5 percentInformation and Communication: 1.5 percentMinister Finance Paschal Donohoe reportedly stated that there has been a strong pick-up in the third quarter of this year, according to indicators available to Government, and that Ireland compares favourably against the UK, eurozone and the US, where GDP declined by considerably more in the same period. Ireland publishes its Waste Action Plan for a Circular EconomyThe Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment this month published its Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy. The policy is part of a new National Waste Action Plan and aligns with the goals of the European Green Deal, which seeks to embed climate action in all strands of public policy. The policy contains over 200 measures across various waste areas, including the Circular Economy, Plastics and Packaging and Green Public Procurement, and its goal is to move the focus away from waste disposal and look at resources more broadly to maximise their value rather than disposing of them. The plan is also summarised in infographics, which describe key actions and targets for both individuals and businesses. Invest NI makes two new COVID-19 schemes available  Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds last week announced two new support schemes available to Northern Ireland businesses:£1million Digital Selling Capability Grant to help retailers and wholesalers better access consumer demand and grow online sales; and£5million Equity Investment Fund to help early stage and seed stage SMEs access finance. Both schemes opened for applications on 9 September. They are operated by Invest Northern Ireland, which is developing several new initiatives to help companies in the new business environment post-COVID-19.Kevin Holland, CEO of Invest NI, described SMEs as “the lifeblood of the Northern Ireland economy” and stated that the two new recovery schemes are “part of a range of solutions we are putting in place to help businesses progress recovery plans, strengthen supply chains, develop new products and access finance.”More information on Business Supports available for Northern Ireland can be found on the Chartered Accountants Ireland COVID-19 Hub, updated regularly. EU integrates strategic foresight into policymakingThe EU has published its strategy to integrate foresight into policymaking. The aim of the strategy is to help understand future challenges and opportunities, to identify major trends, explore alternative futures and design forward-looking policies to make Europe more resilient, green, digital and fair in the future. I’s first annual report Strategic Foresight - Charting the course towards a more resilient Europe focuses on social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital resilience. Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.

Sep 14, 2020
Public Policy

 Sustainability is critical to future-proofing businesses, but it is not always clear how people in business and practice can meet the challenges it presents. This webinar will help members understand how sustainability can mitigate risks and generate revenue and profit. In the third of our District Society Sustainability Roadshows - now with the North-West District Society - join four experts who will interpret global sustainability principles in practical ways for small and medium businesses.This free webinar on Thursday September 24 at 12pm is suitable for members in practice and industry who wish to understand more about sustainability and its future following the current crisis. It will describe how operating sustainably is key to cutting costs as well as building a fairer, greener and cleaner economy. Business at all stages of the sustainability journey will get an insight into how sustainability can bring benefits in terms of reduced costs, risk management, competitive advantage and sourcing finance.The key items that will be covered include:• What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and their relevance to SMEs• Government policy on sustainability at a national and local level• The business benefits of sustainability – people, profit and planetBy the end of this course, participants will be able to:• Understand the UN Sustainable Development Goals and how they apply to business in Ireland• Be familiar with the local and national government initiatives in Ireland• Understand the potential costs to be saved and profits to be made by introducing sustainable practices.• Appreciate how businesses can introduce sustainability practices in their own organisation, whatever the sizeSpeaker BiosJessica Lobo is Programme Manager, Global Goals, United Nations Global Compact Network UK. Jessica leads a programme of activity to engage businesses on the UN Sustainable Development Goals for the UN Global Compact Network UK, part of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest responsible business initiative. Part of the programme is to promote practical sustainability leadership, share knowledge across sectors, and shape the business environment to create a world we want to live and do business in. Prior to this, Jessica was Sustainability Engagement Coordinator with City, University of London,  and Sustainability Engagement Officer at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); Jessica has a Master's Degree in  Environmental Law.Ciarán Hayes was appointed Chief Executive of Sligo County Council in January 2014. Ciarán has 42 years’ service in Local Government having served in five Local Authorities, 20 years of which have been at a senior management level. As Chief Executive of Sligo County Council, he has been instrumental in the emergence of Sligo as capital of the North-West and is presently presiding over €250m capital infrastructural investment. In addition, he has led the Local Government Sector’s response in recent years to the challenges of climate change and was instrumental in the establishment of the Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs).  Separately, he is a Board Member of Ireland International Airport, Knock (IWAK) and is on the Governing Board of IT Sligo.Shane O’Reilly is Director, Sustainable Futures, KPMG. Shane leads the ESG & Sustainability service line of KPMG Sustainable Futures. He has 20+ years’ experience of the global construction materials market having joined KPMG from CRH plc, where he was their Group Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) Manager. He is the current chair of CDP Ireland Network, a committee of sustainability professionals from across Irish industry and semi-state organisations. Shane also participated in a World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Construction Forum for the development of Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) guidelines for the construction sector across its entire value chain. In addition to his ESG experience, Shane has knowledge of capital markets having been part of the Investor Relations group function, as well as operational experience through numerous management roles at CRH plc subsidiary companies in Ireland.Registration is here.

Sep 11, 2020
Public Policy

 In this week’s Public Policy news, read how Ireland has officially entered recession, how the new National Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy intends to move the focus from disposal to production, about two support schemes now available for Northern Ireland businesses, and how the EU plans to make a more resilient green and digital future Europe.Ireland enters recession following biggest quarterly drop ever recordedThe latest quarterly national accounts released by the Central Statistics Office this week showed that Ireland’s economy has officially entered recession. Ireland’s GDP has contracted by 6.1 percent during the second quarter of 2020. A recession is defined as the GDP contracting two quarters in a row. Consumer spending decreased by 19.6 percent, while industry and government spending increased by 7.5 percent.  Overall economic activity was partly offset by an increase of €37.8 billion in net exports of goods and services in Q2. The following sectors contracted significantly: Construction: 38.3 percentDistribution, transport, hotels and restaurants: 30.3 percentAgriculture, forestry and fishing: 60.6 percentArts and entertainment: 65.5 percentInformation and Communication: 1.5 percentMinister Finance Paschal Donohoe reportedly stated that there has been a strong pick-up in the third quarter of this year, according to indicators available to Government, and that Ireland compares favourably against the UK, eurozone and the US, where GDP declined by considerably more in the same period. Ireland publishes its Waste Action Plan for a Circular EconomyThe Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment last week published its Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy. The policy is part of a new National Waste Action Plan and aligns with the goals of the European Green Deal, which seeks to embed climate action in all strands of public policy. The policy contains over 200 measures across various waste areas, including the Circular Economy, Plastics and Packaging and Green Public Procurement, and its goal is to move the focus away from waste disposal and look at resources more broadly to maximise their value rather than disposing of them. The plan is also summarised in infographics, which describe key actions and targets for both individuals and businesses. Invest NI makes two new COVID-19 schemes available  Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds this week announced two new support schemes available to Northern Ireland businesses:£1million Digital Selling Capability Grant to help retailers and wholesalers better access consumer demand and grow online sales; and£5million Equity Investment Fund to help early stage and seed stage SMEs access finance.Both schemes opened for applications on 9 September. They are operated by Invest Northern Ireland, which is developing several new initiatives to help companies in the new business environment post-COVID-19.Kevin Holland, CEO of Invest NI, described SMEs as “the lifeblood of the Northern Ireland economy” and stated that the two new recovery schemes are “part of a range of solutions we are putting in place to help businesses progress recovery plans, strengthen supply chains, develop new products and access finance.”More information on Business Supports available for Northern Ireland can be found on the Chartered Accountants Ireland COVID-19 Hub, updated regularly. EU integrates strategic foresight into policymakingThe EU has published its strategy to integrate  foresight into policymaking. The aim of the strategy is to help understand future challenges and opportunities, to identify major trends, explore alternative futures and design forward-looking policies to make Europe more resilient, green, digital and fair in the future. It’s first annual report Strategic Foresight - Charting the course towards a more resilient Europe focuses on social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital resilience.  Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.

Sep 11, 2020
Public Policy

Businesses on the island of Ireland are being warned that given the lack of progress in Brexit negotiations, they have no option but to assume the EU and the UK will fail to reach agreement by the end of the year and to prepare accordingly.  As the latest round of negotiations continue in London, Chartered Accountants Ireland is urging negotiators to reach a sensible agreement that will save businesses across the island.  A recent survey of businesses carried out by the Institute shows that only one in ten businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland are ready for the changes Brexit will bring. Over half have some measures in place but plan to do more once the outcome of negotiations is known. Commenting, Cróna Clohisey, Public Policy Lead, Chartered Accountants Ireland said “The wait and see approach could prove detrimental for many businesses on the island, which are struggling with the devastating effects of COVID-19. Pandemic aside, Brexit needs to be top of their agenda for the next few weeks to ensure their survival. There are relatively straightforward things that must be done now to start preparations regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.“It is hard to believe that it has been over four years since the Brexit vote and with just weeks to go until the end of the transition period, the UK and EU remain without some form of agreement.  A no-deal Brexit will bring hazardous trading conditions and supply chain disruption for businesses north and south. We are calling on negotiators on both sides to provide some sort of assurance to enterprises about the future trading landscape.”Trade under a free trade agreement might eliminate customs duties but it in no way removes the compliance and administrative burden that customs declarations and checks will bring. Research by the Institute has shown that for most sectors, this disruption is an even greater concern than customs duties themselves with almost half of businesses stating they do not fully understand the customs declarations that will be required to trade goods between Ireland and the UK come 1 January 2021.  Ms Clohisey continued:“Even in the best-case scenario, if the UK and EU reach some sort of agreement on trade, there isn’t time for it to be the comprehensive free trade deal that was hailed during the Brexit referendum– that process takes months even years to arrive at.  The best we can expect is the bare bones of a deal which will likely prioritise avoiding the imposition of tariffs and quotas on goods and is unlikely to extend fully to services.”The practical measures that businesses should now adopt include:Register online with HMRC or Revenue for an EORI number – you cannot trade without one.  Contact your suppliers and logistics providers about the continuity of goods and services you need for trade.Check if your non-UK suppliers use the UK as a land-bridge and ascertain whether this will cost and cause delaysClassify the goods that you import or export for customs duties and know their originSeek out a customs agent or enhance in house customs knowledge Ensure that you have a line of credit to deal with the customs duties that will arise on imports from the UK or Ireland.Check whether your current certifications, licences or authorisations will be valid post-Brexit.Use the government supports available.With all the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations, one thing businesses can be sure of; come 1 January 2021, the trading environment will be vastly different than the simplicity offered by the current Single Market. ENDSNotes to editorsTo move goods into or out of the EU you need an Economic Operator and Registration Identification (EORI) number.  Therefore Irish and UK traders who trade with each other will need to apply for an EORI number. HMRC and Revenue use this number to identify you and collect duty on your goods. The number is also used when traders interact with customs authorities in any EU Member State.In Ireland, you can register for an EORI number on Revenue’s EORI online registration service through My Account or ROS. In the UK, you can apply online to get an EORI number on gov.uk.

Sep 10, 2020
Public Policy

Businesses are every bit as concerned as EU negotiators about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, according to a survey carried out by Chartered Accountants Ireland of respondents working across all industries on the island of Ireland. Only 1 in 5 expect an EU/UK trade agreement to be reached by 31 December. These findings come as negotiations resume in London today.  Despite mounting concern, the focus of respondents across manufacturing, retail, wholesale, transport, logistics and professional services has been forced away from Brexit as they deal with COVID-19. Fewer than 1 in 10 are fully prepared for Brexit and just over 1 in 10 understand the changes that it will bring to their sector. A larger number (37 percent) have some understanding but need further clarity on the official guidance.  Regardless of whether a trade agreement is reached, customs administration will be imposed on exporters and importers north and south and beyond these shores, and survey responses again indicated a knowledge gap when it comes to customs paperwork. Almost half of those surveyed by Chartered Accountants Ireland do not fully understand the customs declarations that will be required to trade goods between Ireland and the UK come 1 January 2021.   Commenting, Cróna Clohisey, Public Policy Lead, Chartered Accountants Ireland said: “As the parties return to the negotiating table, there is an overall air of negativity from officials and from the businesses that we have surveyed. One thing that is certain is that businesses are going to have to deal with customs administration. For many years, the EU has been a safe haven for Irish and UK businesses trading with each other, meaning little need for customs paperwork and declarations. As a result, much of the customs expertise on the island of Ireland has effectively disappeared. “Customs administration is going to cost businesses. This cost emerged as a significant concern for the businesses we surveyed, ranking second, behind staff costs and ahead of customs duties, as the biggest challenge in managing business costs in the next six months.”  Recent months have seen unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19 and approximately 1 in 4 say that their focus has been unavoidably diverted from Brexit as a result.  A little over a third have progressed as far as hiring a customs agent or formally invested in building their own customs knowledge, leaving over 6 in 10 as yet unprepared for these new administrative requirements.  Ms Clohisey continued: “The businesses that will have to deal with customs administration are the same businesses struggling with the effects of COVID-19.  It is critical for the survival of these businesses that goods get to where they need to go and on time. To do this, there is an urgent need for companies and businesses to invest in the people needed to prepare and file customs returns. That work needs to begin immediately so that businesses are ready to trade when the Brexit transition period ends.”  To help bridge this knowledge gap, Chartered Accountants Ireland recently launched a Certificate in Customs and Trade to train traders and advisers to navigate the new customs regime that Brexit will bring.  

Sep 07, 2020