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Europe

Brexit: What happens now?

The government’s Brexit bill has completed its passage through the House of Commons and is now in the House of Lords.

The Brexit date – when the UK leaves the EU – is set for 31 January 2020.

The government’s large majority meant that the EU Withdrawal Bill sailed through the House of Commons. There will be attempts to amend the bill in the Lords but any significant changes would almost certainly be overturned by MPs. It is expected to become law within days.

Assuming the European Parliament also gives the green light, the UK will formally leave the EU on 31 January with a withdrawal deal – and it will then go into a transition period that is scheduled to end on 31 December 2020.

During this period the UK will effectively remain in the EU’s customs union and single market – but will be outside the political institutions and there will be no British members of the European Parliament.

[BBC]

The UK chancellor Sajid Javid comments on non-alignment with EU prompt warnings of price rises

Businesses have predicted price rises after the UK chancellor, Sajid Javid, said there would be no alignment with EU regulations once Britain’s exit from the European Union was made official.

In what is being seen as an opening salvo in the next stage of negotiations, Javid said the Treasury would not lend support to manufacturers that favour EU rules as the sector had had three years to prepare for Britain’s transition.

In an interview with the Financial Times, he said: “There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union – and we will do this by the end of the year.

“We’re … talking about companies that have known since 2016 that we are leaving the EU.”

His remarks will be seen as confirmation of a strategic departure from Theresa May’s deal in which she envisaged close alignment with the EU, in an effort to reduce friction at the border for traders.

But they will alarm business leaders in key sectors including car manufacturing and agriculture who fear the price of non-alignment will be more complex trade barriers for those who export and import with the rest of the EU.

[The Guardian]

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier: Goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain will be checked after Brexit

Goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain after Brexit will be subject to checks and controls, the EU’s chief negotiator said Tuesday (14 January), contradicting statements made by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Implementation of this [Northern Ireland] protocol foresees checks and controls for goods entering the island of Ireland,” Michel Barnier told the European Parliament.

Johnson has insisted such controls would not be introduced under his Brexit deal with Brussels, doubling down on this point during a press conference Monday (13 January).

“Be in no doubt. We are the government of the United Kingdom. I cannot see any circumstances whatever in which they will be any need for checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB,” Johnson said.

“The only circumstances in which you could imagine the need for checks coming from GB to NI, as I’ve explained before, is if those goods were going on into Ireland and we had not secured, which I hope and I’m confident we will, a zero tariff, zero quota agreement with our friends and partners in the EU.”

[Politico]

EU to ban the insecticide thiacloprid

The European Commission decided on Monday (13 January) not to renew the approval of the neonicotinoid pesticide thiacloprid, following scientific advice by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that the substance presents health and environmental concerns.

The insecticide, produced by the pharmaceutical and life sciences company Bayer, has therefore been effectively banned in the EU.

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement that “there are environmental concerns related to the use of this pesticide, particularly its impact on groundwater, but also related to human health, in reproductive toxicity.”

Neonicotinoids, or ‘neonics’, are a controversial group of pesticides, in use since the 1990s. They are the most commonly used insecticides for many food and feed crops. Critics blame them for the detrimental impacts they have on bees and pollinators in general.

This is the fourth neonicotinoid out of five that were earlier approved for use in the EU for which restrictions of use or a ban have been adopted since 2013, the Commission said.

In April 2018, the EU agreed to fully ban the outdoor use of three other neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

[Euractiv]

Middle East

Importers urged to get on board with Saudi Customs’ data-correction scheme

Saudi Customs said on Tuesday (14 January) that its self-correction scheme, launched at the beginning of this year, was aimed at encouraging private sector businesses to come forward and highlight data inaccuracies that may have come about during the trade of goods.

Dr. Mazen Alzamel, deputy governor for revenue at Saudi Customs, told Arab News that the authority was also running another initiative called post-clearance audit (PCA) to help streamline its services.

“That (PCA) is going hand in hand and was started about two-and-a-half years ago. The main thing we need to emphasize, is that the PCA might impose penalties that can be at least twice the amount of customs duties and can go up to the total value of the imported goods,” he said.

Under the newly launched self-correction program, any company voluntarily reporting underpayment of customs fees, and therefore VAT, would only have to pay the difference and would not be fined, added Alzamel.

The customs official pointed out that there was a half-year time limit on the initiative. “All companies are encouraged to go through their imports for the last 5 years, and they now have a window of six months to report any mistakes that have been made during the period.”

Cases where the customs authority had mistakenly over-charged could also be rectified.

Alzamel said: “Any mistake can be corrected. It could be related to the value of the goods, a misspecification causing mistakes in the tariff, or unlawful exemptions.”

[Arab News]

Dubai Customs to host high-level panel discussions during the 5th WCO Global AEO Conference

Dubai Customs will host a series of high-level panel discussions during the 5th World Customs Organization (WCO) Global AEO (Authorized Economic Operator) Conference in Dubai. Set to be held from March 10 to 12, 2020 at the Festival Arena, the conference, which is taking place in the Middle East for the first time, will be hosted by Dubai Customs in cooperation with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the Federal Customs Authority. The event will feature key sessions and round table discussions covering timely topics, including customs work and the development of a global customs system.

One of the panel discussions will focus on the important role of customs, government agencies, and inter-governmental institutions involved in international trade and supply chain security in the success of the AEO program.

Another panel discussion during the 2020 edition of the conference will focus on extending the scope of AEO programs to e-commerce operators, who include owners of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and individual sellers.

According to Dubai Customs’ Director General, by making the AEO programs available to MSMEs and other e-commerce stakeholders and intermediaries, they can fully benefit from opportunities available in cross-border e-commerce activities. He said the move will also benefit e-commerce companies in the UAE that are seeking to penetrate the global market and take advantage of the growth prospects on the international stage.

[Zawya]

 

Africa

Turkey sees trade potential in Africa, trade minister says

Turkey will attach more importance in 2020 to Africa, which possesses important potential, said Turkey’s trade minister Ruhsar Pekcan.

Noting that Turkey’s exports rose yearly by 10 percent to North Africa and 12 percent to other African countries in 2019, Pekcan stressed that a Turkey-Africa summit would be organized this April with the participation of country leaders.

She said the Trade Ministry and the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey would hold another event, the Turkey-Africa Economy and Business Forum, in October 2020.

Pekcan, who visited Nigeria and Morocco to increase economic and trade relations, met the two countries’ top officials and attended joint business events.

“Nigeria has a big potential, it is one of the richest countries in western Africa, there are significant cooperation opportunities for us,” she said. During the visit, the sides discussed reciprocal measures to promote and protect investments, avoid double taxation and increase cooperation on customs, halal accreditation and Turkish Airlines’ flights between the two countries, recounted Pekcan.

Turkey aims to sign an economic and trade cooperation agreement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in which Nigeria is an important actor, she added.

On her visit to Morocco, she said Turkish businesspeople saw the country as a door to the African continent.

[Hurriyet Daily News]