“Who dares to speak for Europe?” – Hayes
Brian Hayes MEP, in a speech to the Merriman Summer school on Thursday 30th July said that we must stop talking Europe down in Ireland and learn lessons from the result of the UK referendum and look for the positives from our membership of the EU.
“The decision by Britain to leave the EU was in the first instance an act of self-mutilation. Reactions to the decision were felt first in currency exchanges and stock markets. Sterling continues to fluctuate wildly, Britain has lost its Triple A rating and there has been an enormous destruction of asset wealth. The Irish stock market has been the hardest hit in the backwash. The sale of government shareholding in Irish banks is now well and truly off the agenda.
“We have crossed a bridge into the unknown. The consequences will play themselves out over the time ahead. There are no guarantees about the final destination.
“Political consequences of the decision to leave followed immediately and the damage is obvious. A British PM gone, the British European commissioner gone, the Conservative Party now engaged in a divisive leadership campaign, the British Labour Party imploding, Britain now deeply divided in so many ways. One of the few adults around appears to be Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland. The British state itself is now at risk of disintegrating.
“Ireland has been one of the big beneficiaries of the European Union. When we joined the then EEC in 1973 Ireland was still a relatively under-developed country. Our membership of the EU has transformed this country.
“Over thirty years we have doubled our labour force – from one to two million people at work. Over €53 billion was received in net payments to this country. We now have an internationalised economy, from pharma to technology to financial services. In 1973 our average pay was one half what it was across the other Member States of the EEC, now it is 25% more than the EU average. We have the highest proportion of young people in third level education of any Member State of the EU. This year we became a net contributor to the EU budget – an amazing turnaround for what was once a poor country.
“No country has used the opportunity of the EU to develop its potential and grow its self-confidence better then Ireland. As a small country we have been transformed. The EU didn’t do it for us; we did it ourselves. But without the EU we would not have made the leap forward. The EU greatly helped our ability to move from” under the skirt of Britain, to compete on the world stage, to diversify and prosper as a modern economy.
“My essential point this evening is for Ireland to learn from the lesson of Brexit. We must stop taking Europe for granted. We must stop talking Europe down. We must stop this them and us attitude which effectively blames the EU for things that go wrong and ignores the positives that come from EU membership. My question is who dares to speak for the EU and who defends its values here in Ireland?
“The EU is not the bogeyman that some populist factions in this country like to present. The EU is not perfect. Far from it. Enormous mistakes have been made, especially in the run up and aftermath of the financial crisis. Its way of working is maddening at times. But the current aggressive and negative commentary on the EU in this country, represents the type of scapegoating that is such a common trait of the most evil form of recent European political history.
“Europe badly needs good leadership. It misses having a strong Franco/German axis. Angela Merkel is the only standout leader amongst the big Member States right now. There is no Mitterrand and Kohl partnership as in previous decades. Europe needs the emergence of a Schuman or an Adenaeur – leaders who set out a vision of what Europe could become, leaders who can inspire the public with a message of unity.
“Our own difficulties around the collapse of the country in 2010/2011 have conveniently allowed many people to believe that it was all the EU’s fault. That our problems were in some way not homegrown. We are also prone to a far bit of euro bashing in Ireland. That the debt was imposed upon us to save German banks or that in some way we could have dodged the bailout had the EU intervened. All of that is economic and political fairytale.
“But the reason Ireland entered a financial assistance programme was because our tax base collapsed, based on a big fat property bubble. Europe didn’t guarantee the banks; we did.
“We have it again on water. Europe is being blamed. As if we didn’t sign off on the Water Framework Directive or come to an agreement with Europe on the derogation that followed.
“Criticising, pulling down, destroying is the easy bit. Working to find solutions, building a better future for all the citizens of Europe; that is the hard bit. What is so maddening about Brexit right now is that it is a total distraction from the jobs, investment and growth agenda, which should be the exclusive priority of all politicians in this post-crisis Europe. Instead we will face years of uncertainly and speculation.
“The Taoiseach and the Irish government have made the case since last weekend that Britain need some time to decide what they want to do. Their options are limited. They want to be part of the single market without paying for it. But that a la carte option is not going to be on offer.
“While they need some time before invoking article 50, I’m convinced that the EU will force the pace of the negotiation after that. Ireland has a crucial role to play in helping the process and hopefully trying to mend fences. Time and political change within the UK may well allow this entire issue to be reviewed when the full consequences of this decision are clearer.”
Agreement reached on EU occupational pension fund Directive – Hayes
This agreement will pave the way for a strong internal market for pensions
Brian Hayes MEP, lead negotiator in the European Parliament for the occupational pension fund Directive (IORP Directive), today welcomed an agreement between Parliament and Council on the overhaul of EU pension rules saying that these new reforms will help pave the way for a strong internal market for occupational pensions.
“An agreement between the European Parliament and the Council has been reached on the revision of the IORP Directive following five months of difficult negotiation. This is an important piece of legislation that will affect pensioners and members of pension schemes alike but a key priority in this was to ensure that the rights and interests of these pensioners and scheme members were protected. The EU needs to be careful when we are dealing with people’s savings. We have established in the new legislation that members and pensioners must be informed about all relevant features of their pension schemes and should be consulted if there are decisions taken which will affect their pension pay-outs.
“IORPs, or occupational pension funds, are financial instruments that operate within an agreed social purpose in various EU Member States. This Directive is important for a small number of Member States, in particular Ireland, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. Pension policy is understandably sensitive in these Member States and the Parliament and Council need to respect the fact that the evolution of pensions across the EU differs greatly. That being said, in agreeing to this new Directive we have struck the right balance between respect for different systems but also ambition for new cross-border pension schemes. In changing the rules on the establishment of cross-border pension schemes, I believe we have removed some of the obstacles to cross-border pension activity.
“We have first of all established clear procedure and timelines for how pension schemes can be transferred across borders. When authorising cross-border transfers, regulators in both Member States must authorise the transfer based on a strict set of criteria. The transfer must be approved by members and beneficiaries of the scheme. If there is disagreement between two regulators on whether the transfer should proceed, the new reforms have provided a mediation role for the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority. These procedures have never been set out in EU legislation before and they will create certainty for the pensions industry when they want to establish cross-border schemes.
“Secondly, it was also agreed that we amend funding rules for cross-border funds to allow for a more lenient funding regime. While it has always been the case that cross-border funds must be fully funded at all times, we have now recognised that such funds can go into periods of underfunding. This is important because we need to recognise that being fully funded at all times is an impossibility, particularly given that we have just had a serious financial crisis where pension funds all over Europe were underfunded for a period of time.
“I am optimistic that this Directive will pave the way for a stronger internal market for pensions. But I also feel that this Directive can kick-start a real debate on pensions in many Member States, a debate that is very much needed all over Europe. People are living longer in Europe now and populations are ageing. It is anticipated that there will be one worker for every two pensioners in the EU by 2060; currently there are four pensioners for every worker. At the moment we don’t have the answers as to how we are going to fund pensions into the future. There is a pension time bomb coming down the tracks.
“The Directive is relevant for another reason – there is currently a major shift across Europe from defined benefit schemes, where the member is assured of a certain pension pay-out, to defined contribution schemes, where members assume the investment risk. The crisis has shown that the defined benefit model is not a sustainable way of delivering for all pensioners into the future.
“In Ireland, we have a well-developed occupational pension model. Every day in Ireland people put aside income to make adequate provision for their pension cover into the future. But we have to encourage people to save and manage these schemes to the highest standards. Less than 40% of Irish employees are covered by a workplace pension scheme.
“The negotiated text of this Directive will now go for a vote in the European Parliament which is currently set for October and it will also go for a vote in the European Council later this year.”
Hayes calls for European Banking Authority to relocate to Dublin
Brian Hayes MEP today (Wednesday) said that the European Banking Authority (EBA) should relocate to Dublin, following comments made by the head of the EBA that it would have to relocate if there was a vote to leave in the UK.
“The European Banking Authority is essentially the banking watchdog of the EU which is based in London. It was founded in 2011 in response to the financial crisis and has since served a massively important role in ensuring stability in the banking industry across the 28 Member States.
“The head of the EBA, Andrea Enria, is on the record saying that the EBA would have to relocate to another European capital if there was a vote to leave the EU. Given its position as a key financial services sector in Europe where many of Europe’s biggest banks conduct operations, Dublin would serve as an ideal location for the European Banking Authority following a Brexit.
“London has acted as an excellent location for the EBA since 2011 and the authority should be praised for the work it has done on developing a single rulebook for all European banks. But it is clear that if Brexit happens as planned, relocation is inevitable.
“This is now up to the government to convince European colleagues that Dublin is the most suitable new location for the Authority. Given that Frankfurt already hosts the ECB, the European Insurance and Pensions Authority (EIOPA) and the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) and given that Paris hosts the European Securities and Markets Association (ESMA), I believe there is a real opportunity for Dublin to host the EBA.
“I believe there are three serious arguments that can be made for Dublin as the new location of the EBA. Firstly, Dublin shares the closest similarities to London in terms of language, business environment and financial services activity. This would make a move to Dublin much smoother than other capitals. Secondly, since most of the financial watchdogs are based in Germany or France, it would make sense to spread the EU’s expertise in the area of financial supervision to smaller Member States which can provide benefits of their own. Thirdly, Ireland as a country has come through a huge period of bank restructuring since the crisis and therefore the Irish government would have the understanding and knowledge to facilitate the EBA’s work in Dublin.
“This will be a tough task however. It is written into the EU Regulation establishing the EBA that the official seat of the EBA is in London. Therefore, a relocation to Dublin would mean a change to the legislation which would have to be approved by Member States and the European Parliament. The government will need to be ready with a convincing proposal as to why Dublin is the ideal location. There is no doubt that Frankfurt and Paris will be vying for this institution also.”
Irish students in UK & NI could see university fees triple post Brexit – Hayes
Points for Irish medical courses set to rise
Brian Hayes MEP, has warned that university fees for Irish students in the UK and Northern Ireland could triple after Brexit following the UK’s referendum result. If students who planned to study medicine in the UK remain in Ireland the points for clinical courses will rise. MEP Hayes highlighted this issue now as the UCAS application system requires students to apply 12 months in advance of starting their course. The Fine Gael MEP for Dublin has asked for this issue to be included in the government’s negotiations with the EU and the UK.
“Over 2,000 students from Ireland study in the UK and Northern Ireland. This has fallen from 5,000 in 2012 and could fall further. While Irish students in Scotland do not pay fees, in the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland fees can cost Irish students between £3,500-£9,000. That could all change following Friday’s vote.
“With the UK set to leave the EU, Irish students could face the full economic cost of university fees after Brexit, which has traditionally been triple, starting at £10,000 and rising to £30,000 for clinical courses. Irish students studying in free-fee Scotland could see university fees re-introduced. Non-EU students face dramatically higher costs in the UK as it stands. The full economic cost of tuition and maintaining some of the oldest universities in the world could result in a 3 year degree costing £30,000 at a minimum.
“While nothing will change for those in the system immediately, this is an important issue which must be recognised now. Despite the UK’s EU exit being 2 years away at the earliest, the UCAS system requires students to apply 12 months in advance. This is significantly earlier than our CAO system.
“A number of Irish students applying to UK and NI universities seek courses in medical and paramedical fields like radiography, nursing, dentistry and also veterinary. With the clinical course costing in excess of £100,000 applicants will remain in Ireland and CAO points will rise. The prospect of EU students choosing to study in Ireland if the UK is closed off to them as an option could also impact points.
“This is more than a matter of costs. Access to the leading universities in the world like Queens, Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews and Aberystwyth would be cut off to all but the super wealthy. As Ireland depends so heavily on the knowledge and innovation economy, this is unacceptable in my view. That’s why I’m asking the government to include this issue in their negotiations with the EU and the UK.
Commissioner Hill’s resignation cannot delay banking & financial reforms – Hayes
Juncker must now reassign Hill’s responsibilities
Member of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Brian Hayes MEP, has called on EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to reassign the Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union responsibilities to avoid delays to critical banking and financial reforms. The British Commissioner, who had responsibility for establishing a Capital Markets Union by 2019 and ensuring financial markets are properly regulated, resigned this morning (Saturday) following Friday’s referendum result.
“As the executive body of the EU, the Commission proposed and implements EU law. It’s not acceptable to me that an area like financial services has no Commissioner driving reform. We cannot forget the 35,000 financial services jobs based in Dublin’s docklands.
“Commissioner Hill is someone I worked with closely and who had an intimate understanding of financial services from Dublin’s perspective. He also had a sensible view about how the real economy works, about how to get new forms of lending into the economy, and who was promoting the idea of a Capital Markets Union.
“We have to be realistic, Prime Minister Cameron now has no mandate to propose a new Commissioner and the European Parliament is unlikely to approve such an appointment. Financial services reform cannot be the latest casualty of the Brexit vote. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker must reassign responsibility for financial services and Capital Markets Union among his college of Commissioners immediately.”
A bridge to the unknown has been crossed – Hayes
Euro/Sterling exchange rate poses ‘immediate danger’ to Irish economy
MEP for Dublin, Brian Hayes, has described the result of the UK’s referendum on Europe as a ‘bridge to the unknown’. MEP Hayes, a member of the European Parliament’s Economic Committee, highlighted the euro/sterling exchange rate as an ‘immediate danger’ to Ireland.
“Britain’s decision to leave the EU is a massive political earthquake. The shock waves of this decision will unfold in the days and months ahead. Ireland is right to be worried and apprehensive. As our single most important trading partner, Britain’s decision leaves us vulnerable to negative currency fluctuations.
The immediate danger to Ireland is the euro/sterling exchange rate. A fall in the value of sterling will have extremely negative consequences for Irish exports to Britain. The competitiveness of our important tourist sector will also be hit.
A bridge into the unknown has been crossed. Britain’s decision to leave is a real threat to the future of the EU. There are also risks to the stability and cohesion of the UK itself. Britain and Europe must now begin the long and complex process of establishing a new political and economic relationship. A huge burden of responsibility will now fall on Irish politics.
While defending its own interests Ireland must be prepared to act as a mediator in future British/EU negotiations. Ireland will also need to be extremely mindful of British/Irish relationships and the rapidly changing dynamics of internal UK politics. Above all this is a time for clear thinking and calm heads.
The stability and security of Europe are worth preserving. The freedoms we enjoy as Europeans must never be taken for granted. The EU must renew its commitment to the values which have driven the EU project since its foundation. The response by national and European politicians needs to be adequate to the scale of the challenges ahead.
Hayes welcomes EU Commission action on Vnuk ruling
Brian Hayes MEP today said that it is welcome that the European Commission has taken action to amend the Motor Insurance Directive in order to resolve the potential implications of the Vnuk ruling. The ECJ’s Vnuk ruling is due to be implemented in October 2016 and could potentially shut down motorsports in Ireland.
“It is welcome that the Commission has recognised the serious problems that could arise from the Vnuk ruling. This ruling would mean that from October 2016 all EU Member States are required to make unlimited third party motor insurance compulsory for all vehicles wherever they are used in the EU. This means that racetracks as wells as private farmland and private carparks would have to require compulsory motor insurance, yet there is essentially no market availability for such mandatory insurance.
“Earlier this month, the Commission started the process to correct this problem. Since the ECJ ruling will effectively reinterpret the Motor Insurance Directive to make these rules applicable, the Commission has initiated an amendment procedure for this Directive.
“We are a long way from putting this issue to bed however. The Commission needs to first of all complete an impact assessment which would explore different ways of amending the Directive, some of which may not achieve the necessary result. Following this the Commission has to formally propose the amended legislation to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The amended legislation needs to be scrutinised by both institutions and it is very unpredictable how the amended legislation will be taken up in either institution. Some Member States and some MEPs may argue for stricter rules for third party insurance.
“As an Irish MEP I will be working to ensure that this amendment goes through as swiftly as possible to ensure that places like Mondello Park remain open for business. There is also a serious onus on the Irish government to ensure swift passage of the amendment since it will be heavily involved in discussions at European Council level. While the ruling is to take effect by October 2016, it will be suspended pending an outcome of the Commission’s action on the Motor Insurance Directive.”