NORMANDY POLITICAL, BUSINESS LEADERS DISCUSS POST-BREXIT PLANS IN DUBLIN - Political and business leaders from Normandy visited Dublin last week to discuss contingency plans for Brexit including cargo ships travelling directly to French ports to bypass the UK "landbridge" to the EU. 

Hervé Morin, the president of Normandy, outlined to business figures the increased numbers of customs officials and border inspection controls for animal and food health checks planned for the ports of Cherbourg, Dieppe and Caen-Ouistreham in order to be prepared for the UK's departure from the EU on March 29th. The three ports, which handle two million passengers and 200,000 heavy goods vehicles every year, are looking to maintain existing traffic with the UK post-Brexit, says the Irish Times. Normandy officials were in Dublin to attract new business by selling the attractiveness of direct traffic to French ports should customs checks congest the landbridge route. Mr Morin assured Irish business figures and officials on his visit that the French ports would be ready for a hard Brexit as a result of a €30 million investment for checkpoints at the three ports. He said that Cherbourg, an Irish Ferries route from Dublin, had taken measures to account for the configuration of traffic at the port, including the handling of Irish and English traffic driving off ferries.

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FRANCE PLANS TO FORCE HEADS OF BIG FIRMS TO BE TAX RESIDENT - The French government is planning to force the chairs and chief executives of big companies headquartered in the country to pay their personal taxes there, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said. "We will reinforce the rules of fiscal residency, we will do it through a law," Mr Le Maire said in a radio interview with France Inter yesterday. "There will be an obligation to be a fiscal resident in France when you are at the head of a big French company." In his interview, he said legislation he'll propose in "the coming months" will target large companies including those listed in the main Paris stock exchange and companies where the government holds stakes, says the Irish Independent. Whether France can introduce legislation barring residents of neighbouring European Union member states holding top jobs remains to be seen. However, an anti-elite backlash by so-called Yellow Vest protesters against a proposed fuel tax has piled pressure on President Emmanuel Macron's government to prove it is not out of touch with ordinary voters. The move also follows reports that Carlos Ghosn, controversial former CEO of French carmaker Renault, and ex-chairman of Nissan, has not been tax domicile in France since 2012. 

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SUMMIT TO FOCUS ON GROWING OPPORTUNITIES FOR BUSINESSES IN ASIA - Asia offers great opportunities for Irish exporters, industry and businesses in a changing landscape post Brexit, an expert on the region has said. 

The chief executive of Ireland's only Asian think-tank, Asia Matters, said in excess of 20% of new foreign direct investment into Ireland was coming from Asia. Cork native Martin Murray was speaking at the launch of the fifth Asia Matters Cork Business Summit, which takes place on May 23 and 24, in partnership with Cork City Council, Cork Co Council, Cork Institute of Technology and Cork Chamber. The event will focus on the unique role of Cork in driving strategic partnerships between China and Ireland, reports the Irish Examiner. Mr Murray said it was important that Ireland diversifies into new global markets. Asia now holds 40% global wealth and 60% of global consumers who require quality products and services, he added.

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LLOYDS UNVEILS 100% MORTGAGE FOR FIRST-TIME BUYERS - Britain's biggest lender is to offer 100% mortgages to first-time buyers in a return to lending last seen before the financial crash - but only if the buyer has family that can stand behind the loan.

Under the new Lloyds Bank "Lend A Hand" deal, a first-time buyer will be able to borrow up to £500,000 for a new home, without putting down a penny of deposit. The Lloyds move marks a major expansion into the first-time buyer market, as most other mainstream lenders demand a minimum deposit worth 5% of the property purchase price, although Barclays has offered a similar "family springboard" deal. Lloyds has priced the mortgages to undercut the Barclays offer, reports today's Guardian. The deal - part of what Lloyds said is a £30 billion commitment to help first-time buyers - will reopen concern about a two-tier market where buyers with well-off families can elbow aside those without. Saving for a deposit is usually cited by first-time buyers as the biggest hurdle to home ownership. Lloyds said the average deposit put down by first-time buyers has climbed to £33,211, and a staggering £110,182 in London. The Lloyds deal requires that a member of the family - such as parent, grandparent or close relative - helps out. The bank will only grant the 100% mortgage if the family member puts a sum equal to 10% of the value of the property into a Lloyds savings account.