Apple tax deal: Controversial ruling backed by MEPs

Competition chief lauded for decision on firm’s €13bn liability due to illegal State aid

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager was congratulated by MEPs for her decision against Ireland. Photographs: AFP/Getty Images

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager was congratulated by MEPs for her decision against Ireland. Photographs: AFP/Getty Images

 

Ireland’s political isolation over the Apple ruling was laid bare on Wednesday as MEPs overwhelmingly backed the EU’s finding that the State had offered illegal state aid to the US multinational.

In a highly-charged, though sparsely attended, debate at the European Parliament, MEPs from across the political spectrum lined up to congratulate EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager on her decision against Ireland.

“Citizens who have been asked for great sacrifices cannot understand that big multinationals do not participate in this collective effort,” said Spanish MEP Pablo Zalba Bidgegain.

“We as European citizens have to thank for the commissioner for her effort and for remaining so strong on the Apple case. These kinds of actions undoubtedly contribute to European citizens seeing [the European Union] as part of a solution not as a problem.”

Green MEP Sven Gielgold, a long-time tax justice campaigner, said Ms Vestager “deserved a medal” for her actions, while his colleague Philippe Lamberts said he wanted to “clone” the Danish commissioner for taking on multinationals.

German centre-right MEP Markus Ferber congratulated Ms Vestager in finding the “right lever” for tackling unfair taxation through state aid law, “even though it rewards those who ought to be punished”, referring to Ireland’s decision not to accept the €13 billion in recovered taxes.

Other MEPs referred to the funds that were extended to Ireland during the bailout, while a French MEP recalled how she had raised concerns about tax competition with former commissioner Charlie McCreevy.

Scandals

While the European Parliament has little power over EU competition policy, it has taken a leading role in efforts to clamp down on multitax avoidance by establishing special tax committees in the wake of the Luxembourg Leaks and Panama Papers scandals.

Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly and Brian Hayes were among the only MEPs to question the European Commission ruling. Mr Kelly referred to it as “profoundly wrong and extremely damaging to Ireland”, while Mr Hayes accused the commission of displaying a determination “to get Apple from the start of this investigation”.

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy said that, while he supported the principle of tax sovereignty, the decision to appeal was “morally wrong and financially stupid”.