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EU business leader ‘optimistic’ Britain will strike Brexit deal

Christoph Leitl, President of Eurochambres (European Chambers of Commerce and Industry), wants the UK to remain tied to the Customs Union once it leaves the single bloc.

Mr Leitl warned that EU countries would need to recruit thousands of extra customs officers to beef up border security if Britain leaves the union.

He said: “If there is no customs union, that will mean that we will need 10,000 extra customs officials in Europe.

“Huge waiting times, huge traffic measures to handle the traffic jams, so to speak. Those who initiated it really did not think things through and act irresponsible in my view.

He added: “I say, stay inside the Customs Union, in the single market.”

The EU and Britain’s current Brexit position was “completely confusing”, Mr Leitl believed, but he was “optimistic that they can find an agreement”.

And with negotiations between Theresa May and the EU negotiating teams reaching deadlock, Mr Leitl admitted the current economic outlook was “insecure”.

But he warned Theresa May that failing to strike a trade deal with the EU would harm British business more than the 27 other EU states’ economies.

“If there is no customs union, we will need 10,000 extra customs officials. I say, stay inside the Customs Union, in the single market.” ~ Christoph Leitl

Mr Leitl said: “Fifty percent of all UK exports go to the markets of the European Union, but only five percent from the markets of the European Union to Great Britain.

“It must be in the vital interest of Great Britain to get out of politics, but to stay in business economically.”

The Austrian president of Eurochambres called for a “transitional regime for he issue of migration that concerns you so much.”

He added: “As always in such negotiations, it’s a poker game till the end, as solutions are being sought.

“Then, at some point the clock is stopped, and a solution is announced.”

Last week’s Brussels summit failed to break the deadlock with Mrs May accused of offering “nothing new”.

EU leaders and the British negotiating team remain divided over as solution to the Northern Ireland backstop to ensure a free-flowing border.

Theresa May has vowed not to accept a deal that keeps Northern Ireland tied to EU customs rules while the rest of the UK leaves.

At last week’s talks, she admitted she could seek an extension of a few months to a December 2020 transition date.

A showdown summit planned for November may now be pushed back to December.

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Baker McKenzie law firm to create 150 jobs in Belfast

GLOBAL law firm Baker McKenzie is to create 150 new jobs in Belfast as part of major expansion plans.

The legal company, who first opened in the city back in 2014, has entered into an agreement with Belfast Harbour Commissioners to take additional office space in the City Quays development. The deal will see Baker McKenzie lease a floor in City Quays 2, a move which will see staff numbers in Northern Ireland grow from just under 300 to 450.

The expansion also allows the legal firm to develop and grow the services it currently provides in Belfast.

Baker McKenzie was the first tenant to move to grade A office space within City Quays 1 in June 2015, but is now nearing capacity in its existing premises.

Since setting up in late 2014 the Belfast office, one of 77 around the world, has grown rapidly and now provides over 30 legal and business services, including finance, corporate support, marketing and IT.

Executive director at Baker McKenzie, James Richards said the expansion underlines the firm’s commitment to Belfast and Northern Ireland.

“The growth of our Belfast office has been a remarkable success story which would not have been possible without the exceptional pool of talent here from both legal and business backgrounds, which has allowed us to create highly skilled and specialised opportunities in Northern Ireland.”

“Our lawyers and professional staff around the globe have been really impressed at what we have created in Belfast and we have become a major innovation hub for the firm. We have introduced a number of initiatives here that are not only benefitting our clients but have a direct impact on our financial performance,” he added.

Belfast Harbour CEO, Joe O’Neill believes Baker McKenzie’s expansion in the city is testament to the offering provided in the City Quays development.

“Cementing our relationship even further with Baker McKenzie and facilitating their ability to grow is something which makes us very proud,” he said.

“City Quays 2 is Belfast Harbour’s response to ongoing demand by inward investors and indigenous firms for new Grade A office space in Belfast. The development has already established itself as the preferred destination for local and international business leaders and Baker McKenzie’s decision to expand into City Quays 2 is a clear testament to the quality of the space provided, its location for business and the infrastructure around it.”

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Northern Ireland: Pinsent Masons crowned Law Firm of the Year

ONE of Northern Ireland’s largest law firms has been named Law Firm of the Year 2018 at the prestigious awards ceremony hosted by The Lawyer magazine.

Servicing major Northern Irish institutions such as Queen’s University, Allstate, and Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Pinsent Masons employs more than 85 people in Belfast, with that number rising to around 110 when combined with their rapidly expanding new office in Dublin.

This year’s judges – a panel of in-house general counsel, The Lawyer Hot 100 alumni and managing partners of major international firms – recognised the firm’s achievements over the past year, from continuing to be a market leader across its five key sectors, to expanding its revenue streams outside of traditional legal services through a range of innovative ‘New Law’ products.

The judges also commended the firm’s desire to lead on gender diversity, with the firm one of the first in the sector to publish its gender pay gap data.

Pinsent Masons has also succeeded in raising the percentage of women in its partnership from 17 per cent to 25 per cent in five years, and four of its nine board members are female.

Head of Pinsent Masons Belfast office and real estate partner Andrea McIlroy-Rose said: “In Northern Ireland we have enjoyed working on high profile local projects including the purchase of Belfast International Airport, the £200m Gas to the West expansion, and major new Grade A office facilities for inward investors such as Allstate and Concentrix.

“The strength of our firm offering, and investment in technology, means we can provide our clients with outstanding service and efficiencies that are unparalleled in a regional market such as Northern Ireland.”

On a global level the firm has acted on several significant deals globally in the past year, including advising Shell UK on its $3.8bn sale of North Sea assets to Chrysaor; Laing O’Rourke on AU$955m Sydney Metro Central Station; ING and Commonwealth Bank of Australia on a pilot AI program for MiFID II; and advising Redefine International on the disposal of its German retail portfolio of 66 properties for €205m.

Pinsent Masons recently reported its 2017/18 financial results, achieving a 10 per cent increase in fees billed. The firm’s total global turnover for the year stood at £449.8 million, representing turnover growth of more than 40 per cent and profit growth of 60 per cent over the past five years.

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Carson McDowell expands team in response to growing demand

Irish law firm Carson McDowell has expanded its corporate team in response to increased demand from local and international clients.

The firm has appointed three new lawyers to the team: Paul McGuickin has joined the firm as a senior associate, Rosanne Brennan has been appointed as an associate and Helen Boyle has joined as a solicitor. Rosaleen Jones has also become the corporate team’s new legal secretary. This brings the total number of lawyers in the team to 20, with five support staff.

In the past 12 months Carson McDowell’s corporate team has advised on transactions with a combined value of more than £750m for clients in Northern Ireland and other markets.

In 2018 alone this includes acting as lead advisers on the £400m+ sale of Lagan Group’s materials business to Breedon Group plc, advising the shareholders of Lowe Rental Ltd in relation to the £60m investment by private equity fund Perwyn and taking the lead adviser role on the acquisition by SHS Group Limited of 3V Natural Foods limited.

Carson McDowell was this week named by Experian as Northern Ireland’s leading legal adviser for M&A in Q1 by transaction volume – working on nine deals in total.

Neasa Quigley, joint head of the firm’s corporate team, said: “2017 was a busy year for Carson McDowell’s corporate law team and the first half of 2018 has continued in the same vein.”

“We have advised leading Northern Irish businesses and international businesses across a full spectrum of corporate transactions, including acquisitions and disposals, corporate finance, joint ventures, group reorganisations and corporate governance.”

Richard Gray, joint head of the corporate team, added: “In recent years the firm has been at the forefront of some of the most significant corporate transactions across many different sectors in Northern Ireland. Continued growth in this area has caused us to expand the team and we are confident that the appointments announced today will further strengthen Carson McDowell’s offering to our clients.”