Business Irish

Saturday 18 November 2017

Apple debacle: Noonan not looking for support from European neighbours

Finance minister Michael Noonan. Pic Tom Burke
Finance minister Michael Noonan. Pic Tom Burke

Sarah Collins

Minister for finance Michael Noonan has said he expects other countries to take an interest in Ireland’s appeal against the EU’s recent ruling that Apple enjoyed illegal tax breaks in the country.

He added that he was not trying to drum up support from fellow finance ministers over the issue.

"The Irish government has decided to appeal the ruling and Apple have also decided to appeal the ruling so in terms of process, the Commission, the competition commissioners have stated their opinion and it’s now under appeal,” he said on his way into a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Bratislava.

"So we’re in a kind of a judicial phase,” he added.

France and Germany have come out behind the Commission’s recent ruling, while EU economic and tax commissioner - and France’s former finance minister - Pierre Moscovici said that Ireland’s reluctance to accept the 13 billion euro tax windfall was a “strange decision”.

"I wouldn’t agree with him and, you know, he’s a commissioner. Obviously the commission will defend they’re ruling and we’ll appeal it,” Mr Noonan said.

Austrian Minister of Finance Hans Jörg Schelling said on his way into the meeting that Italy, France and Austria would be looking into whether their countries are entitled to a share of the 13 billion tax windfall the Commission said is owed to Ireland.

“In terms of support, again, because it’s judicial we’re not trying to drum up support. In a court case, you don’t drum up support. But there have been cases and rulings in the last 12 months or so in respect of Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland, and they have all appealed, and Ireland has associated itself with the appeals, and we are legally represented at the appeals,” he added.

"I would assume something similar will happen in this case because interested parties will be very interested in the legal argument because of the similarities between the cases - they’re all taken on state aid grounds,” he added.

“The dossiers under appeal are historic issues, and I’m sure a lot of colleagues will disucss these with me privately but I don’t see them as a debating issue or a discussion issue which will be adverse to Ireland in any way,” he said.

He wouldn’t be drawn on whether Ireland will appeal for flexibility under the EU’s fiscal rules, which say spending must be in line with GDP growth so the economy doesn’t overheat.

"I think the appeal period at a minimum will take four years, maybe longer, so I think one of my successors is going to have great fun making these decisions, but I doubt it’ll be me."

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