Opening Bell: Ireland's Brexit concerns, rent pressure zones, Trump vs environmental protection

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Nearly half of Irish small and medium-sized businesses (48%) expect their profitability to suffer decreases of between 1% and 20% as a direct result of Brexit.

As British Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, a new survey from the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) shows that one third anticipate no change, with 9% predicting gains of as much as 20%.

Some 45% of firms expect a negative impact on turnover. A further 44% expect no change, with just 11% expecting earnings to increase.

The majority of employees can rest easy, with 77% of SMEs saying that the uncertainty surrounding Brexit will not impact their staffing levels in the year ahead.

Just over half have provided wage increases of up to 5% in the first quarter of this year.

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Parts of counties Cork and Kildare could be added to the list of rent pressure zones later, according to The Irish Times.

A number of commuter towns, including Cobh, Co Cork, and Maynooth in Kildare, will be included when the latest report from the Residential Tenancies Board is published later today.

It would mean legal caps would be applied to the increases property owners could impose on tenants in these areas.

In January, 12 areas were designated as pressure zones, joining Dublin and Cork city as places where rent increases were capped at 4%.

However, there was surprise in some quarters that Cobh was not included. Wicklow Fianna Fáil TD Pat Casey also called the exclusion Greystones an "anomaly" and called for Maynooth to be included.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney outlined the criteria for inclusion:

“There are essentially two qualifying criteria: rent has to be increasing by at least 7 per cent a year for four of the last six quarters; and it has to be higher than the national average.”

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Income tax breaks before the economic crash eroded the Government's tax base and caused even greater austerity during the crisis, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

A new study from the ESRI found that discretionary tax policy meant a relative reduction in revenue in the period up to 2008.

"In other words," it states, "if the tax system had been left unchanged during the 2000s, more revenue would have been automatically generated than was actually the case."

The Government was still increasing income tax credits as late as 2008, despite signs of economic trouble ahead.

Income tax is the State's largest individual source of tax revenue, accounting for over 35% of the total.

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US President Donald Trump has torn up Barack Obama's plans to tackle climate change as he puts American jobs above the protection of the environment.

The US President signed a series of executive orders on Tuesday scrapping a requirement for federal officials to consider the impact of climate change when making decisions. He has previously described global warming as a "hoax". 

Trump hopes it will help job creation and boost the US coal industry in particular.

He said:

"We are going to start a new energy revolution, one that celebrates American production on American soil."

Campaigners are worried about how it will impact on efforts to tackle climate change, with environmental groups saying they will fight it in court.

Democrat senator Tom Carper has heavily criticised the move:

"Thanks to this executive order, our future is looking darker, it's looking dirtier, and it's looking less prosperous.

"This executive order will not bring back the coal industry. And Donald Trump saying otherwise is just not true."