Tuesday 18 September 2018

Juncker in fresh attack on Irish tax autonomy

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Shona Murray and Alastair MacDonald

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker launched another assault on Irish powers to veto tax matters at European level.

The European Union should scrap some national vetos on tax, he said at his annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Instead, he suggested that the EU should move to a system of majority voting - comments which would cause concern among the Government here.

Mr Juncker has long been pushing for EU-wide tax reforms to be implemented via qualified majority voting rather than unanimous agreement.

He repeated that call yesterday, saying: "I also think we should be able to decide on certain tax matters by qualified majority."

But there are concerns that such changes would undermine the competitiveness of the 12.5pc corporate tax rate offered by Ireland.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and colleagues have vehemently insisted that they will resist any such changes and that Ireland retains a valid veto.

Meanwhile, Mr Juncker said solidarity with Ireland over tough Brexit talks would remain a priority for the EU.

He said the EU, including the Commission and all member states, would "show loyalty and solidarity with Ireland" over the Border.

Europe will "find a solution to avoid a hard Border in Ireland and defend all elements of the Good Friday Agreement".

But he pointed out it was Brexit, and "not the EU", making the Border an issue.

Mr Juncker - who is in his final year as president of the commission - issued a veiled rejection of the UK's recent Brexit plan, also known as the 'Chequers proposal'.

He said "someone who leaves" the EU, "cannot be in the same privileged position" as it once was while a fully fledged member.

Mr Juncker also called for the EU to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the US dollar.

"We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene," he said. "It is absurd that European companies buy European planes in dollars instead of euro.

"The euro must become the face and the instrument of a new, more sovereign Europe."

In his speech, he proposed fining Google, Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms if they fail to remove extremist content within one hour.

Brussels gave internet firms three months in March to show they were acting faster to take down radical posts, but EU regulators say too little is being done without legislation forcing them to do so.

If authorities flag it, the commission wants content inciting or advocating extremist offences, promoting extremist groups, or showing how to commit such acts to be removed within a hour.

"One hour is the decisive time window the greatest damage takes place," Mr Juncker said.

Irish Independent

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