Wednesday 22 November 2017

'Ireland's friend' Schauble backs the EU against Noonan in tax row

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble. REUTERS/John Kolesidis/Files
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble. REUTERS/John Kolesidis/Files

Gareth Morgan and Cormac McQuinn

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble has come out strongly in favour of the €13bn Apple tax ruling in a blow to his Irish counterpart, who once counted him as a key ally.

During the bailout, Michael Noonan insiste that Mr Schauble was "a friend" and would not do anything to damage Ireland.

But Mr Schauble has now launched a broadside against Ireland and multinational firms - insisting the European Commission needs to strictly enforce EU competition rules.

It comes as EU Commission president Jean Claude Juncker told the G20 Summit in China that the Apple ruling must be followed.

"Our rules on state aid have always been clear," said Mr Junker. "National authorities cannot give tax benefits to some companies and not to others. This is the level playing field that the Commission is always working to defend.

"All companies must pay their fair shares of taxes in the countries where they make their profits."

Meanwhile, Mr Schauble told the 'Bild am Sonntag' newspaper that individual states should not give "undue advantage" to companies.

Mr Schauble said he fully backed EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who took on Apple and may soon begin a fresh investigation into tax rulings offered by Luxembourg.

Mr Schauble added that he did not expect the EU Commission's decision on Apple to have direct consequences for Germany.

His views contrast markedly with those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last week backed Ireland and warned that the ruling could hurt investment in Europe. But Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel took a similar view to Mr Schauble, welcoming the Commission's decision.

And in a pointed remark, he warned against giant tech companies being seen to choose "tax havens" to conduct their business.

The head of the largest group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, also rowed into the debate.

"It cannot be that the deep-pocketed internet companies are subsidised by the taxpayers," he said.

Junior finance minister Eoghan Murphy responded to the latest remarks, saying: "I think it's in the interests of all member states that we appeal this case and that we win it.

Amid the ongoing row, Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor is today travelling to Brussels to meet internal market commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska and trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

Irish Independent

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