Three Monday Morning Brexit-Speech Thoughts

Three thoughts after reading the UK Prime Minister’s Brexit speech.

  1. This is the opening salvo of a negotiation. Everything needs to be understood (and therefore, deflated) in this context.
  2. In different places in the speech, Mrs May is talking about restricting immigration *and* having unrestricted free trade. This is a nonsense, and it won’t work. Her description of the process also completely underestimates the negotiating power of the EU. For example, Mrs May said she wants to give “British companies the maximum freedom to trade and operate in the single market”, but not at the expense of allowing free movement of workers for these companies or accepting the power of the European Court of Justice. Best of luck with that.
  3. Beyond rallying the troops a bit, and giving a timeline, there’s little in the speech for Ireland, news-wise, apart from what seems like a very firm decision to negotiate as a United Kingdom–meaning our friends up North and in Scotland are in a bit of trouble as there will likely be fewer border-related concessions for them in the context of a ‘hard’ Brexit.

Central Bank presentations at the DEW

Four presentations from Central Bank economists were made at the recent Dublin Economics Workshop, reflecting a range of research activity on the commercial real estate, enterprise credit and interbank markets. Paper titles and a brief description below.

Eoin O’Brien and Maria Woods: “Applying a macroprudential risk analysis to Irish commercial  real estate prices”

Research focuses on Irish commercial real estate market and presents a range of indicators that can be used to assess the sustainability of prices and enhance the Central Bank of Ireland’s existing macroprudential risk assessments of this sector.  Developing analytical tools to identify real estate risks, among other areas, is a priority for policy makers focused on mitigating systemic risk.  To complement traditional statistical indicators of price misalignment such as the deviation of the price-to-rent ratio from its historical average, two reduced form models are specified drawing on the property literature and long-run Irish data (1985Q1 to 2013Q4) to approximate a fundamental price series.  Periods where actual prices deviate from this fundamental series can be identified over the sample.  Non-linear methods suggest that the relationship between price changes and estimated misalignments may vary over the property cycle.

James Carroll, Paul Mooney (Dept of Finance) and Conor O’Toole: “Irish SME Investment in Economic Recovery”. Link (p73).

An in-depth look at the types of SME engaging in investment during the economic recovery, along with the financing sources behind said investment. Key findings:

  • The share of SMEs investing has increased steadily since 2012, and currently about a third of SMEs are investing on a six-monthly basis.
  • Younger firms, controlling for other firm characteristics, invest more. Improvements in profitability and turnover are important drivers of investment.
  • SME investment responds to regional  economic conditions, as measured by the unemployment rate.
  • Smaller, younger, non-exporting firms, who are likely more reliant on local household spending, respond most to domestic conditions.
  • Investment is mainly financed through internal funds, and there is no evident increase in the external financing share since early 2013.

James Carroll and Fergal McCann: “Cross-country comparisons of SME borrowing costs”

This research provides a methodology to strip out borrower- and bank-related factors which may form part of the explanation for cross-country interest rate differentials. Using the case of UK and Irish lending by Irish-owned banks, the research suggests that, of a 240 basis point (bps) difference in raw average borrowing costs, about 100-150 bps is not explained by bank- and borrower-level characteristics and can therefore be attributed to market-level factors such as bank competition, collateral enforceability and the aggregate outlook for default probabilities. Earlier research from the two authors shows that across Europe, such aggregate factors are indeed associated with higher enterprise borrowing costs.

Paul Lyons and Terry O’Malley: “Monitoring Ireland’s payments system using Target II”

  • Research provides a description of Ireland’s component of the Eurosystem’s large value payment system (TARGET2-IE).
  • TARGET2-IE forms an important part of the Bank’s analytical toolkit in that it can be used to examine the degree of interconnectedness between banks in Ireland; to develop indicators for systemic risk monitoring; to map Ireland’s payment networks to provide a source for measuring price and quantities in the short term interbank loan market involving Irish banks.
  • Early research results identify differences between the interbank and customer payments networks with the customer payment network displaying a small number of highly connected banks in addition to a large number of isolated banks.


The Dog Ate My Wind-Farm

The Irish Times relates this morning an Oxford Mail report of a lucky escape for a corporate financier formerly employed with Barclays and Lehman Brothers. Michael Chase-Sarver copped a four-month prison sentence from Judge Eccles at Oxford Crown Court. He had been prosecuted for perverting the course of justice in attempting to avoid a speeding conviction.
He called a witness from Derry who testified that Mr. Chase-Sarver was the promoter of a wind-farm project in Donegal which would cost €1 billion, occupy 35,000 acres and employ 300 people. The judge suspended the sentence, citing the risk to the 300 jobs.
Neither Donegal County Council nor An Bord Pleanala are aware of this project according to local media.
This is surprising. The average cost of 1 MW of wind capacity is about €2m, so the billion Euro tab would equate to around 500MW, the largest generation facility to be built in Ireland since Moneypoint in the mid-1980s. At 35,000 acres the site (70 acres per MW sounds about right) would occupy 3% of the land area of Donegal, a large county. The witness from Derry, a co-investor in the mystery project, claims that agreement has been reached with 100 very discreet farmers.
Ireland already has about 2,500 MW of intermittent wind capacity. Peak demand is about 5,000 and total capacity about 10,000, of which 7000 is dispatchable. Wind gets priority when available and a price guarantee, or compensation if ‘constrained off’. Further additions of intermittent generation, from wind or solar, will add to the subsidy costs and strand more gas-fired assets, many of which belong to the government.

The EU and the border

Our text for today is Graham Gudgeon’s piece in the Irish Times, which makes a number of questionable claims.

First, he argues that

An accurate version of Ireland’s economic history is important. This is because, contrary to what we are continually told, EU membership does not seem to have had a noticeably beneficial impact on Ireland’s economic growth, even if this seemed to be the case during the great construction boom occasioned by overly low interest rates inside the euro zone.

I don’t think any economic historian or economist believes that the EU has not been massively good for Ireland’s economic growth: just compare our experiences pre- and post-1973.

Maddison’s numbers show per capita growth of 3% p.a. 1950-73, and 4.1% p.a. 1973-2008. 4.3% p.a. 1973-2000, in case you want to strip out the Celtic Bubble years and the first year of the crash. That’s before we even get into the important issue of what was happening to the number of capitas. GDP grew by 3.2% p.a. 1950-73, and by 5.1% p.a. 1973-2000. 5.0% 1973-2008. And there is an even more important point to be made. The period from 1950-73 saw extremely rapid growth throughout Western Europe: our growth rates then were disappointing in that context. Growth slowed everywhere after 1973: our growth rates since then have been very strong in that context.

Our whole development strategy has been to serve as an export platform for multinationals selling into the EU market. You might think that we should be diversifying, and I might agree, but everyone accepts that the strategy has worked, massively, to date.

From the text, it seems that Gudgin may be confusing EU and Eurozone membership. I’m one of those who thinks that the Euro has been a damaging failure, but let’s not confuse the EU, and the Single Market’s four freedoms that have worked so well for us, with a flawed monetary union.

Gudgeon then goes on to say that

Ireland should ally with Germany and the Netherlands in arguing for continued free trade between the UK and the EU. This will greatly ease any pressures for Border controls in Ireland.

In fact, as Ben Kelly has usefully reminded us, unless the British decide to stay in the EU customs union either permanently or as an interim measure (or, most implausibly, succeed in negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU within two years of Article 50 being triggered) there will have to be tariffs between Ireland and the UK. There will be no choice in the matter: for the EU not to impose tariffs on UK exports would leave it in breach of its WTO obligations. And unless the UK has zero tariffs on everything from everyone, WTO rules would similarly oblige it to impose tariffs on EU exports.

Unfortunately for us, it seems likely that the British are intent on leaving the customs union, as Robert Peston points out here. There is therefore a fairly strong possibility that we will see tariff barriers between the Republic and Northern Ireland in the not too distant future (unless the North can get a special dispensation to stay in the customs union, and the tariffs are imposed across the Irish Sea instead).

There are those who would like to see Ireland leave the EU. Expect them to argue in the years ahead that any border controls between the Republic and the North are arising because of “pressure” from the Continent. Expect them to further argue that this shows that our true friends are in London rather than the European mainland. On the contrary: any border controls that arise will be as a result of British decisions, and British decisions alone. And to date there is no indication whatsoever that those decisions are taking any heed of Irish interests.

9th Annual Irish Economics, Psychology, and Policy Conference

9th Annual Irish Economics, Psychology, and Policy Conference

Queen’s University Belfast

November 25th 2016
The ninth annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology will be held on November 25th in Queen’s University Belfast, jointly organised by researchers in QUB, ESRI, Stirling and UCD. The purpose of these sessions is to develop the link between Economics, Psychology, and cognate disciplines throughout Ireland. A special theme of these events is the implications of behavioural economics for public policy. If you would like to attend, please register on the following link. There is no registration fee but we require advanced registration in order to provide access to the building etc.,
As well as the annual workshop we have developed a broader network to meet more regularly to discuss work at the intersection of economics, psychology, and policy. This has had six meet-ups so far, as well as some offshoot sessions. Anyone interested in this area is welcome to attend. A website with more details and a mailing list to sign up to is available here. There are currently 226 people signed up to the network and the events have been, at least in my view, very lively and interesting. There are several more planned for throughout 2016/2017 and we welcome suggestions.

830am – 850am: Registration

850am Welcome

9am to 10.40am: Behavioural Science and Policy Case Studies (Chair: David Comerford)

Katja Fells (RWI) “Behavioral Economics and Energy Conservation – A Systematic Review of Innovative Interventions and their Causal Effects”.
Nicole Andelic (QUB) “Debt advice is better delivered face-to-face than via telephone”.
Thomas Conway (NUIG): “Investigating the effects of the Great Recession on the mental health of Irish third-level students.”
Mark McGovern (QUB) “Disparities in Early Life Investments and Children’s Time Use”.
Cathal FitzGerald (DCU) “Surprisingly Rational? The Case of 100% Mortgages in Ireland in 2005”.

10.40am to 11am: Coffee

11am to 1pm:  Measurement, Method, and Behavioural Science (Chair: Pete Lunn)

Carla Prentice (QUB): “Time Discounting as a Mediator of the Relationship between Financial Stress and Health”.
Seda Erdem (Stirling): “Discrete Choice Experiments and Behavioural Economics”.
Aine Ni Choisdealbha (ESRI) “Harnessing habitual behaviour in the laboratory: an experiment on how busy consumers respond to environmental information”.
Arkady Zgonnikov (NUIG): “Using decision space visualisations to characterise individual decision makers”.
Marek Bohacek (ESRI) “Investigating a central mechanism of economic decision making: the ability to trade-off incommensurate attributes”.
Danny Campbell (Stirling): “Discrete Choice Experiments and Behavioural Economics”.

1pm to 140pm: Lunch

140pm to 320 pm: Regulation, Policy, and Behavioural Science (Chair: Liam Delaney)

Clare Delargy (BIT): “Behavioural Insights and Public Policy”.
Michael Daly (Stirling): “Self-control, health, and public policy”.
Maureen Maloney and Alma McCarthy (NUIG): “Automatic enrolment and employee risk:  An analysis using a bounded rationality framework”.
Leonhard Lades (Stirling) “Self-control, well-being, and normative measures of welfare”.
Karl Purcell and Laura Watts (IGEES). “Behavioural Economics and Irish policy”.

320pm to 330pm: Coffee

330pm to 415pm: Keynote Speaker 1: Professor Muireann Quigley (Newcastle Law School) “Libertarian Paternalism & Nudging: On Alluring Concepts and Public Policy”.

415pm to 5pm: Keynote Speaker 2: Professor Michelle Baddeley (UCL) Title TBC “Behavioural Economics and Regulation”.

The Apple Ruling: What do we know?

It’s just over a week since Commissioner Vestager announced the state-aid ruling on the tax treatment of Apple in Ireland.  We only have the press release and the Commissioner’s statement to go by so it’s still too early to be definitive on what the Commission are actually doing.  It could be months before the full ruling is available here but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a stab at what might be going on.

There has been a lot of reaction to what the ruling means for Ireland’s Corporation Tax regime.  While there has been massive reputational damage (possibly irreparably so) the ruling does not have any implications for Ireland’s Corporation Tax rate or even for any of the rules that Ireland applies to Corporation Tax.

Unlike previous instances the Commission is not looking for any change in Ireland’s Corporation Tax regime.  In this instance looking for changes would likely have been overreach but that is not what the Commission is seeking.  Nor is the Commission seeking to retrospectively impose alternative transfer pricing standards which was a central focus of the recent White Paper from the US Treasury.  If the Commission’s case required a change of rules or the application of new standards it would have had little hope of standing up to an appeal.

Continue reading “The Apple Ruling: What do we know?”