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Week Ahead (21 March)

Monday, 21 March – EU Foreign Affairs Council to discuss further aid for Ukraine ahead of Leaders' Summit

EU foreign and defence ministers will meet in Brussels today, where they are expected to authorise increased funding for Ukrainian defence ahead of a G7 meeting later in the week which will be dominated by the ongoing war. The meeting is also likely to approve of the provision of financial aid for Moldova, which neighbours Ukraine and is bearing substantial costs due to the influx of refugees from the war.

The European Council will hold a summit on Thursday and Friday of this week. Again, while much of the focus will be on the ongoing war, it is expected that the European Commission will table proposals aimed at alleviating the Europe-wide energy crisis. Attitudes towards intervention are split between southern member states and the frugals, led by the Netherlands. While Italy and Greece are known to favour capping gas prices, moves to decouple gas and electricity prices are being pursued by Spain and France, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria have played down the prospect of wide-ranging reforms of the energy sector to combat price rises.

Tuesday, 22 March – CSO Trade statistics for January to be released

Ireland’s Central Statistics Office will release data on Tuesday showing imports and exports in February.  Data from January show that seasonally adjusted imports had increased by 6% to €10.227 billion while exports had increased by 16% to €15.5 billion compared to the previous month.Year on year, exports increased by €3.1 billion in January, with imports increasing by €2.6 billion over the same period.

Exports to Great Britain in January increased by €450 million when compared to January 2021, or 48%, with products in the chemical and related products category accounting for the bulk of exports. Imports from GB also increased by €1.05 billion on the same period last year. North-South trade also saw an increase, with imports from Northern Ireland increasing by €79 million and exports increasing by €107 million when compared to January 2021.

Tuesday, 22 March – ECON and LIBE to hold public hearing on new AML package

The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) will hold a public hearing on Tuesday to discuss the new anti-money laundering package.

A major strand of the package concerns the creation of a new EU AML/CFT authority, to be known as the Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA). It is expected to be operational by 2024, while taking up its direct supervisory duties in early 2026.  This takes a significant chunk of activity away from the European Banking Authority which oversaw significant AML failures in its capacity as supervisor over the past decade.

EU financial services attachés will also debate the new anti-money laundering package on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 23 March – UK Chancellor to present Spring Statement

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, will deliver the spring statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday amid pressure to increase defence spending in far from ideal economic conditions. The statement is widely seen as one of the most important non-budgetary economic interventions in recent times as the UK deals with mounting cost-of-living increases, pandemic legacy issues and the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

Sunak has limited room to manoeuvre, given his reluctance to increase borrowing, and speculation has focused on measures which had until recently been ruled out, such as scrapping VAT on domestic energy bills, a £2.4 billion measure that was promised by Boris Johnson during Brexit campaign. Other options open to the Chancellor include the deferral of the collection of assistance provided by way of a loan to poorer households to help them cope with energy price increases, or freeze planned increases in national insurance rates.

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