The EU in 2018- What to watch

Jan 17, 2018

By Emma Kerins, EU & International Affairs Manager

Today’s January briefing on the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU was again hosted by European Movement Ireland in the Government Buildings. Addressing a full house, the Bulgarian Ambassador, Branimir Zaimov spoke of his country’s objectives and intentions as part of their Presidency, their very first, over the coming six months. Taking into account the need for active dialogue with EU citizens, the Ambassador says that it will strive to achieve progress in the field of security, employment, sustainable growth and ensuring a stronger EU presence on the world stage. In particular, it tasks itself with focusing on youth questions and security issues as horizontal priorities.

Also speaking at the event, Minister Helen McEntee spoke about Brexit and the ongoing Future of Europe dialogue, although she noted that the future of Europe is not Brexit, but instead the future of the EU without the UK as a member. A key focus of Minister McEntee’s address was that there’s more happening than just Brexit and the EU was not standing still as the negotiations for the UK’s exit progress and Ireland must play its part.

As part of the European Commission’s work-plan for 2018, there are lots of developments of interest to the business community. Of particular note is the Commission’s commitment to pursuing reforms that boost jobs, growth and investment. Specifically, it will seek to deliver on the Circular Economy Action Plan, and to complete the Digital Single Market, the Energy Union, the Capital Markets Union, the Economic and Monetary Union and the Banking Union. The Juncker Commission has also continued to commit to an ambitious trade agenda for the EU, which has become even more important for Irish business in light of the UK’s upcoming departure from the bloc. Negotiations with Japan were finalised at the end of 2017, and 2018 promises another ambitious and proactive year with agreements with Vietnam and Singapore due to be finalised, and negotiations with Mexico and Mercosur to continue into 2018. The Commission, as outlined in the State of the Union, has also pledged to opening negotiations for a trade deal with Australia and New Zealand.

While the focus of the EU will not solely be on the UK’s departure, Brexit is significant and in the background to the busy agenda set by the European Commission for the year ahead, discussion continues between the UK and the EU on both the “divorce” settlement and the future trading relationship. The trade-focussed aspect of the negotiations is scheduled to begin in March, where an agreement must be reached before October 2018 to give time to national parliaments to ratify the deal. The future trading relationship and how the UK seeks to manage the border in Northern Ireland will be of utmost importance to the Irish business community into 2018 and will be an area we will be monitoring closely as discussions progress.

For more information on the issues identified in this blog, please click on the links below:

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