UK demands EU agree to new post-Brexit deal for N.Ireland

UK demands EU agree to new post-Brexit deal for N.Ireland
Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis giving a statement on the Northern Ireland protocol. UK government Wednesday demanded EU re-negotiate post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland after rioting and business disruptions. (AFP)
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Updated 21 July 2021

UK demands EU agree to new post-Brexit deal for N.Ireland

UK demands EU agree to new post-Brexit deal for N.Ireland
  • European Union has long insisted that it is up to London to implement what it agreed in their drawn-out Brexit divorce
  • US administration is also looking on warily at the UK manoeuvres

LONDON: The UK government on Wednesday demanded the EU re-negotiate post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland after rioting and business disruption hit the restive province.
The European Union has long insisted that it is up to London to implement what it agreed in their drawn-out Brexit divorce, and the US administration is also looking on warily at the UK maneuvers.
London stopped short of suspending the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which requires checks on goods crossing over from mainland Britain.
But Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told parliament that while the UK had negotiated the protocol “in good faith,” its real-world application by the EU had entailed “considerable and continuing burdens.”
“Put simply, we cannot go on as we are,” he said.
Rather than ad-hoc grace periods for border checks, Lewis said the UK was seeking a “standstill period” for the protocol including legal action by the EU.
He pressed for a new dialogue “that deals with the problems in the round.”
“We urge the EU to look at it with fresh eyes and work with us to seize this opportunity and put our relations on a better footing.”
The protocol was painstakingly negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market.
Northern Ireland, which suffered three decades of sectarian conflict until a peace agreement in 1998, has been rocked by violence this year, in part against the protocol.
Many pro-UK unionists see it as creating a de facto border in the Irish Sea with mainland Britain and say they feel betrayed.
In its proposals, Britain urged the EU to stop broad checks and focus more squarely on goods “genuinely” at risk of entering its single market via Northern Ireland.
The government insisted that for all other goods, a light touch was needed to preserve Northern Ireland’s integral status as part of the UK.
It also wants the removal of any oversight role by the European Court of Justice.
Frustrated at the new red tape since the UK left the EU fully at the start of this year, several UK companies have already suspended sales to Northern Ireland, or are offering a reduced choice.
Retail chain Marks and Spencer said that in the protocol’s current guise, there will be “gaps on the shelves” in Northern Ireland this Christmas.
In a phone call Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Irish counterpart Micheal Martin the protocol was “causing significant disruption” and changes were essential, according to Downing Street.
But the EU, seeking to preserve the integrity of its single market, says Britain has been acting in bad faith, knowing full well what it signed up to.
There was no immediate comment from Brussels, but European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen last week denied the EU was being dogmatic in its application of the protocol.
Ireland’s European affairs minister Thomas Byrne said Dublin would “listen carefully to what the British government have to say,” but insisted that any remedies must respect the hard-fought pact.
“We’re willing to discuss any creative solutions within the confines of the protocol,” he told BBC radio.
“But we have to recognize as well that Britain decided itself to leave the single market of the European Union, to apply trade rules, to apply red tape to its goods that are leaving Britain, to goods that are coming into Britain.”
The protracted rows over the protocol are drawing concern further afield from President Joe Biden’s US administration.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters the administration wanted both sides “to negotiate within the existing mechanisms when differences do arise.”
John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy and a former secretary of state, told BBC radio that the Irish-American president was “deeply immersed in the issue.”
Both he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are “deeply committed in making certain that the (Good Friday) agreement holds and there is peace ultimately,” Kerry said.


French firms keen on establishing regional HQ in KSA, says Al-Falih

French firms keen on establishing regional HQ in KSA, says Al-Falih
Updated 13 sec ago

French firms keen on establishing regional HQ in KSA, says Al-Falih

French firms keen on establishing regional HQ in KSA, says Al-Falih
  • The strategy program will create 35,000 jobs for Saudis

PARIS: Saudi investment minister on Sunday revealed that a French construction company will join 40 other global companies in establishing their regional headquarters in Riyadh.

Khalid Al-Falih, however, did not name the company. Talking to Al-Arabiyah News Channel, the minister said the French renewable energy firms are keen on investing in the Kingdom. Companies such as Total, Engie, EDF, are working extensively to secure new projects in Saudi Arabia, Al-Falih said. 

Earlier in 2021, the Kingdom introduced a policy to stop signing contracts with foreign companies from 2024 unless their regional headquarters are based in the Kingdom.

It is part of the Riyadh Strategy 2030 plan announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Future Investment Initiative forum in January.

The rule includes agencies, institutions and government-owned funds. It aims to incentivize foreign companies that deal with Saudi Arabia’s government to base themselves in the Kingdom.

Al-Falih said Total plans to open petroleum distribution stations, and charging units (stations) for electric vehicles going forward.

This is in addition to Total’s previous investments in one of the largest industrial projects in Jubail, along with Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Co. project and Amiral complex — with investments exceeding SR30 billion ($8 billion), the minister said.

Al-Falih also told the news channel that several educational agreements were signed during his trip to Paris.

The Royal Commission for Riyadh City has set a target to attract up to 500 foreign companies to set up their regional headquarters in the capital over the next 10 years, with 24 already confirmed, and as part of the initiative the crown prince aims to double Riyadh’s population.

According to studies, the strategy program will create 35,000 jobs for Saudis and help pump up to SR70 billion ($18.67 billion) into the national economy by the end of the decade.


KSA has strongest banking system among GCC, S&P Global Ratings says

KSA has strongest banking system among GCC, S&P Global Ratings says
Updated 26 September 2021

KSA has strongest banking system among GCC, S&P Global Ratings says

KSA has strongest banking system among GCC, S&P Global Ratings says

JEDDAH: S&P Global Ratings said on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic and last year's oil price crash did not affect all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) banking systems in the same way, highlighting that the Saudi Arabian banking system appeared to be the strongest in the current environment. 

"We expect GCC banks' asset quality indicators to deteriorate only slightly thanks to regulatory and government support measures, and improving economic sentiment," the rating firm said in the comment.

According to S&P Global Ratings, Saudi banks will continue to benefit from mortgage growth and the implementation of Vision 2030, which it expects will boost asset quality and profitability indicators.

The rating firm said the most vulnerable banking system among GCC countries is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the pandemic affected sectors such as hospitality, trade, and real estate sector.

"In our view, UAE banks are among the most vulnerable in the GCC region, as a result of their high exposure to real estate and other hard-hit sectors, while Saudi banks are better placed thanks to stronger profitability," it said.

"Other issues include Qatar's increasing net external debt and Kuwait's fiscal impasse, which may not just hurt the economy but also question the government's ability to support the banking system in a predictable and timely manner," it added.


Bahrain to double VAT to 10%: Reports

Bahrain to double VAT to 10%: Reports
Updated 26 September 2021

Bahrain to double VAT to 10%: Reports

Bahrain to double VAT to 10%: Reports

RIYADH: Bahrain plans to increase value-added tax to 10 percent in a bid to curb budget deficits and boost state revenue, 

Bahraini media outlets reported on Sunday.

According to a report published in a section of the Bahraini press, the legislators also discussed the options of reducing wages or social welfare given to nationals to bolster the economy.

According to IMF estimates, Bahrain’s budget deficit will contract by half this year after lower oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic boosted it to a record 18 percent of economic output in 2020.


Petrofac to plead guilty to 7 counts of bribery in Mideast oil projects

Petrofac to plead guilty to 7 counts of bribery in Mideast oil projects
Updated 26 September 2021

Petrofac to plead guilty to 7 counts of bribery in Mideast oil projects

Petrofac to plead guilty to 7 counts of bribery in Mideast oil projects

LONDON: British oil services group Petrofac said on Friday it would plead guilty to seven counts of failing to prevent bribery to secure projects in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the UAE between 2012 and 2015, calling it a “deeply regrettable period.”

The company indicated its plans at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court after being formally charged by the UK Serious Fraud Office, drawing a line under a four-year criminal investigation. Its shares surged 25 percent in relief.

Petrofac, which has struggled to secure key contracts in the Middle East and has seen its shares battered during the SFO investigation, will formally enter its pleas and await sentencing at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Monday.

Petrofac said offers or payments to agents to help secure projects were made between 2011 and 2017 but that all employees involved had left.

“This was a deeply regrettable period of Petrofac’s history,” said Chairman Rene Medori in a statement, adding that the company’s “comprehensive program of corporate renewal” had been acknowledged by the SFO.

“Petrofac has been living under the shadow of the past, but today it is a profoundly different business, in which stakeholders can be assured of our commitment to the highest standards of business ethics, wherever we operate,” he said.

Former executive David Lufkin, who has separately pleaded guilty to 14 charges of bribery to secure billions of dollars worth of contracts for Petrofac in the Middle East, is also expected to be sentenced on Monday.

His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In March, the UAE’s state-backed oil firm, ADNOC, barred Petrofac from competing for new contracts in the country.

It is the second corporate guilty plea secured by the SFO in five months.

Former Airbus subsidiary GPT Special Project Management pleaded guilty to corruption over military contracts for Saudi Arabia in April.


CFO of Russia’s Novatek arrested in US on tax charges of over $93 million

CFO of Russia’s Novatek arrested in US on tax charges of over $93 million
Updated 13 min 17 sec ago

CFO of Russia’s Novatek arrested in US on tax charges of over $93 million

CFO of Russia’s Novatek arrested in US on tax charges of over $93 million
  • Novatek has grown into a major competitor of Gazprom, produced last year, 18.8 million tons of liquefied natural gas, 5 percent of global output
  • The situation has absolutely no effect on Novatek’s operational and financial activities

RIYADH: The US government has arrested Mark Gyetvay, the deputy chairman of the management board of Novatek, Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer, on federal tax charges for more than $93 million hidden in offshore accounts, according to the IRS statement.


The situation has absolutely no effect on Novatek’s operational and financial activities, adding that it isn’t involved in related litigation, the company said in WSJ about Mr. Gyetvay’s case.


Novatek has grown into a major competitor of Gazprom, produced last year, 18.8 million tons of liquefied natural gas, 5 percent of global output, WSJ said.


The arrest of Gyetvay, comes as Russia wrestles with European regulatory challenges to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline running along the bed of the Baltic Sea, seen by opponents as a geopolitical tool, Nord Stream 2 will deliver Russian natural gas to Germany, WSJ added.