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Apple taxes: European court threat comes when we most need EU Brexit support

Cantillon: Competition commissioner suspects Ireland dragging heels in pursuit of company

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager: bad publicity around the Apple tax bill could put Ireland on the back foot in defending our tax structure. Photograph: François Lenoir/Reuters

It made for good headlines. “Ireland to be hauled before European Court of Justice.” But is the European Commission announcement following Ireland Inc’s failure to complete the collection of €13 billion in disputed back taxes from tech giant Apple anything more than a ritual show of strength?

There is no doubt that competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager suspects Ireland has been dragging its heels somewhat in its pursuit of Apple. It’s not unthinkable. Ireland is by no means unique within the EU, but you have to assume our European partners are, by now, well accustomed to the practicalities of “Irish solutions” to unwanted problems.

The Government disagreed vehemently with the original finding and is, in any case, loathe to offend a highly esteemed member of our foreign direct investment community and a major employer in the State.