The National:

Independence is a normal thing. Lots of countries are independent. Every week, we'll tell our reader what other countries are doing with the powers on independence.

Iceland PM says Scotland could be an independent country

THE Prime Minister of our near neighbour Iceland is convinced that Scotland “absolutely” could be an independent country.

Speaking on the first edition of BBC Scotland’s The Nine, Katrin Jakobsdottir was asked by BBC Scotland’s chief news correspondent James Cook about Scotland’s status as a country that voted to remain in the EU.

Jakobsdottir replied: “In Iceland we have 360,000 people so I often get asked when I’m travelling abroad ‘you’re an independent nation, do you have your own language?’… so in these issues I don’t think size matters.”

Cook asked if Scotland could be independent to which she replied: “Absolutely.”

Iceland, which became fully independent 75 years ago, is not in the EU but is a member of the single market, and the prime minister hinted she is no fan of a no-deal Brexit.

She said: “UK is a very important trade partner for Iceland.

“We have a lot of trade and strong relations and in a way we also have strong cultural relations based on our common history.

Jakobsdottir added: “Brexit without a deal must be a very difficult decision for the UK so it is also a concern for us, both because we have economic interests and also because we think of the UK as our friend in the world.”

The National: Irish finance minister Paschal DonohoeIrish finance minister Paschal Donohoe

Ireland has its say on European digital tax

PROOF that a small country’s place in the European Union is respected was shown yesterday when the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, arrived in Dublin to canvass support for the proposed European digital taxation laws.

Le Maire met his Irish counterpart, finance minister Paschal Donohoe, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for discussions on the European proposal which many people in Ireland feel will adversely affect the economy in Ireland, where many digital companies are based.

The tax was proposed by the European Commission last March. Aimed at the tech giants, the tax will see major digital companies taxed on advertising revenue, data exploitation and sales on digital platforms.

France has been the main proponent of the tax, which the USA is fiercely resisting. Germany only agreed to support it in December and for advertising revenue rates only. Yet, France is confident it will follow 22 other countries in supporting the overall tax which is likely to be at a level of 3% of revenue. Four countries in the European Union still oppose the tax – they are Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The Irish Times yesterday quoted a French finance ministry source saying Le Maire was seeking to convince Ireland that “the world is changing and Europe must change with it”.

The timing of the tax plan is crucial as France is shortly to assume the presidency of the G7 group of the world’s largest economies and has promised to make “fiscal justice” a priority. The finance ministry source told the Irish Times: “Now it is purely a political decision. If some states really want to block it, obviously they can, since it requires unanimity. But they must assume their responsibilities because this is something that many citizens are demanding. One of the first things that the gilets jaunes demanded was taxation on multinationals.”

The source added that France understood Ireland’s position and added that the country “has a lot of positives to offer businesses, besides low taxation. If it was only about tax, companies would go to Hungary which has a lower rate”.

He added that Ireland’s “positive business environment, the English language and a flexible, well-educated labour force” showed that Ireland has no reason to fear digital taxation”.

The Irish Times reported that the source said France and Ireland “agree on a great deal regarding trade, Brexit and the deepening of the Euro zone.

“We work very, very well together. You cannot reduce our relationship to one issue.”

The National: Croatia joined the EU in 2013Croatia joined the EU in 2013

Croatia to begin euro transition 

CROATIA has begun moves to adopt the euro as its currency with leaders reaching the conclusion that the eurozone is good for small countries.

That was the view of Croatian National Bank governor Boris Vujcic, who said yesterday that this is a strategic commitment by the state that will have lasting implications, positive and negative, on the future of the country.

Vujcic commented: “Of all the countries that have not yet done so, at this moment Croatia is the European Union member country that can profit most from introducing the euro. Because of this, in our opinion, it is in Croatia’s interest to introduce the euro as soon as possible.”

Croatia retained the Kuna when it joined the EU in 2013 but pledged to adopt the euro and also linked its currency to the euro. Adding that the benefits of joining the eurozone are greater than the costs, Vujcic said: “Croatia is the smallest EU member state that has not yet introduced the euro. All smaller members have introduced the euro, which in itself says something.

“This says that, if you are very small, the possibility for realisation of sovereignty is much smaller than if you are a big country. All of those countries judged that it pays more for them to enter the eurozone than to remain outside it.”