Gavin McLoughlin: 'Leo Varadkar was brutally undercut by his Polish counterpart in front of the world's most influential people'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attends a session of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

Gavin McLoughlin

At Davos being accused of operating a tax haven is practically a compliment - if you're not doing it, it's probably a sign that you're not as pro-business as you could be.

But the problem for Leo Varadkar today was  that he was publicly, brutally, undercut by his Polish counterpart in front of an audience of the world's most influential people.

Mateusz Morawiecki made an emotive plea for an overhaul of Europe's tax system, taking a thinly veiled swipe at the Taoiseach sitting next to him.

Mr Morawiecki invoked Poland's history with communism as a reason to create a 'level playing field' on tax.

"For 50 years we couldn't in terms of taxation, in terms of many other critical systems for the social and economic environment, we need to take this into account to have a real level playing field."

"There are tax havens in Europe which abuse their taxation systems to the detriment of other countries. And we should stop this because this is not helping the European Union to build trust towards each other.

"I would be in favour of eliminating all tax havens from Europe because this would bring a level playing field."

Mr Morawiecki said he was a strong supporter of the so-called digital tax - a levy on the revenues of big tech companies to which Ireland was opposed.

Mr Varadkar, for his part, defended the Irish tax system, saying we are "forever closing tax loopholes".

He said Ireland was opposed to the digital tax because it taxed revenues rather than profits.

"The principles have to be that the tax is where value is created - not where there is turnover."

It was the second time Poland has caused a problem for Mr Varadkar this week, with its foreign minister earlier this year suggestive a five-year limit on the backstop.

With Brexit weeks away it's important for Ireland to demonstrate that the EU is united behind us as we come to the crunch.

That did not happen today. To be sure, Poland has its own agenda. Hundreds of thousands of Poles live and work in the UK, and Britain is a reliable NATO ally.

But we have an agenda too, and we need our EU partners to help carry it through.