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

  • 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.


Saudi Arabian youth use less cash as Kingdom pushes for cashless society

Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi Arabian youth use less cash as Kingdom pushes for cashless society

  • Only 18 percent of Saudis aged between 16 and 22 years use cash
  • Almost half of people 60 and above use cash

RIYADH: Youth in Saudi Arabia are using less cash compared to other age groups, a sign that the Kingdom’s plans to create a cashless society is on course.

Only 18 percent of Saudis aged between 16 and 22 years use cash, while almost half of people who are 60 and above use cash till date, a report by Fintech Saudi showed.

The report also showed that 20 percent of the population in central region of Saudi Arabia, which includes the capital Riyadh, use cash in their everyday transactions, while 37 percent of those living in the western region use paper money in their daily dealings.

However, paper currency is far from total demise even as the overall number of transactions carried out using cash have declined. Fintech Saudi’s survey results showed that around 60 percent of individuals Kingdom-wide still rely on paper money at least once a week and one out of four people in Saudi use cash every day.

Under Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom aims to increase the number of non-cash transactions to 70 percent in 2025.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has led to an acceleration in cashless activity with digital payments increasing by 75 percent over the past year, whilst cash withdrawals from ATMs and other payment points have declined by 30 percent over the same period,” the report said.


UAE’s ADNOC sells first cargo of blue ammonia to Japan

Updated 04 August 2021

UAE’s ADNOC sells first cargo of blue ammonia to Japan

  • Shipments were sold at an attractive premium to grey ammonia
  • CO2 from the ammonia production process will be captured and transferred to Al Reyadah

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) said it has partnered with Fertiglobe to sell its first cargo of blue ammonia to Itochu in Japan, for use in fertilizer production.

The shipments represent the first production milestone of a planned scale-up of blue ammonia production capabilities in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to include a low-cost debottlenecking program at Fertiglobe’s Fertil site, UAE state news service WAM reported, citing a statement from ADNOC.

They were sold at an attractive premium to grey ammonia, underscoring the favorable economics for blue ammonia as an emerging source of low-carbon energy, it said.

Ammonia is a carrier fuel for hydrogen. A report earlier this year by Dii Desert Energy and Roland Berger said the Gulf region could create a $200 billion green hydrogen industry by 2050. The Gulf benefits from its strategic geographic location between European and Asian markets.

Green hydrogen is created with renewable energy and water, while blue hydrogen uses the traditional Haber-Bosch method but captures the carbon emissions.

CO2 from the ammonia production process will be captured and transferred to Al Reyadah, the first commercial-scale carbon capture plant in the Middle East and the world’s first commercial facility to capture CO2 from the iron and steel industry. The CO2 is subsequently used in ADNOC Onshore’s Rumaitha and Bab fields where it is stored underground. Each year, Al Reyadah captures up to 800,000 tons of CO2 from local UAE steel production.

Fertiglobe, the world’s largest seaborne exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, is a 58:42 joint venture between Dutch-listed chemical producer OCI and ADNOC. In June, Fertiglobe, ADNOC and ADQ said they would partner in a one million metric ton per annum blue ammonia project at TA’ZIZ in Ruwais, subject to regulatory approvals.

In April, it was reported that ADNOC and OCI had hired banks, including Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, for a possible $7 billion IPO of Fertiglobe.

“Today’s announcement builds upon ADNOC’s commitment to expanding the UAE’s position as a regional leader in the production of hydrogen and its carrier fuels, meeting the needs of critical global export markets such as Japan,” said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology and ADNOC group CEO.

Ammonia can be used as a low-carbon fuel across a wide range of industrial applications, including transportation, power generation, refining and industries, including steel, wastewater treatment, cement and fertilizer production. For Japan, in particular, hydrogen and its carrier fuels, such as blue ammonia, are expected to play an important role in the country’s ongoing industrial decarbonization efforts.


UAE, China agree to cooperate on money laundering, terrorism financing

Updated 04 August 2021

UAE, China agree to cooperate on money laundering, terrorism financing

  • Countries will share financial transaction information

ABU DHABI: The Financial Information Unit of the UAE’s central bank has signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center to share financial information to aid the combating of money laundering and terrorism financing.

The MOU will see the two authorities exchanging transaction information related to their respective investigations, in accordance with the local laws and regulations applicable in both countries, the UAE’s state news agency WAM reported.

The agreement was signed by Ali Faisal Baalawi, head of the Financial Information Unit in the UAE, and Zhou Yunjun, director general of the China Center for Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis.

“We will continue our unremitting joint efforts to confront all suspicious activities at the regional and international levels, and we will endeavor to reduce the threats these activities pose to the stability and integrity of the global financial system,” said Baalwai.

The UAE has become the largest market for Chinese exports, and the second largest trading partner for China in the Arab world, said Zhou.


Riyadh-based Al startup Intelmatix completes first investment round

Updated 04 August 2021

Riyadh-based Al startup Intelmatix completes first investment round

  • Size of funding round not disclosed
  • Investors include STV, Sultan Holdings

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia-based AI startup Intelmatix has closed its first investment round led by STV, Mena’s largest venture capital fund, and Sultan Holdings, a leading strategic investor in some of Mena’s largest companies.

“Artificial Intelligence offers opportunities worth billions,” Intelmatix Co-Founder and CEO Anas Alfaris, Wamda reported, citing a statement. “In the Saudi Arabian market alone, Location Intelligence opportunities exceed SR2 billion annually, and globally, the value is more than SR100 billion each year.”

Intelmatix, headquartered in the Saudi capital Riyadh, said on its official Twitter account it is pleased to announce the closing and launch of its operations in Riyadh, London and Boston.

“We recognize the revolution occurring today in the business world due to artificial intelligence and advanced analytics,” said Sultan Holdings Chairman Naif Bin Sultan Bin Muhammad bin Saud Al Kabeer. “For us, Intelmatix is more than an investment, it is a key strategic step to advance the prospects of AI adoption and enablement in the business sector.”

Intelmatix, founded by MIT graduates, is a pioneer in accessible AI and advanced analytics that deliver technologies that improve operations, productivity, growth, and sustainability for governments and the private sector.

“The Intelmatix team is made of the brightest minds in the region, and they have the ability and vision to make the company a major global AI player,” STV’s founder and CEO, Abdulrahman Tarabzouni said.

Global technology foresight firms report that the revenues from artificial intelligence in the Middle East will exceed SR1 trillion during the next 10 years, half of which is expected to be in the Saudi market, where AI will contribute at least SR500 billion to the Saudi economy by 2030.


Dubai airport expects passenger surge as UAE eases travel curbs

Updated 04 August 2021

Dubai airport expects passenger surge as UAE eases travel curbs

  • UAE said it would scrap on Aug. 5 a transit flight ban

DUBAI: Dubai’s state airport operator expects a “surge” in passenger traffic over the coming weeks and months, its chief executive said on Wednesday, after the United Arab Emirates announced an easing of travel restrictions from African and Asian countries.
The Gulf state, a major international travel hub, on Tuesday said it would scrap on Aug. 5 a transit flight ban which Emirates airline later said applied to passengers traveling from 12 countries, including major market India.
The UAE will also lift this week an entry ban on those who had visited India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria or Uganda over the past 14 days for those with valid residencies and who are certified by Emirati authorities as fully vaccinated.
Dubai Airports Chief Executive Paul Griffiths said Dubai International was “ready to accommodate the anticipated surge in the coming weeks and months” once restrictions ease.
The Indian subcontinent is traditionally the largest source market for Dubai International, which is one of the world’s busiest airports and the hub for state airline Emirates.
Griffiths said the easing of entry restrictions on inbound travelers from South Asia as well as Nigeria and Uganda would allow for thousands of UAE residents to return.
“It’s a great development from both a social and economic standpoint,” he said.
Those traveling to the UAE or transiting through its airports need to meet various conditions including presenting a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus test prior to departure.
Dubai International Airport is targeting 8 percent growth in passenger traffic this year to 28 million. It handled 86.4 million in 2019, the year before the pandemic struck.