Michael Noonan supports France over EU sanctions

French minister for finance in Dublin for talks over fiscal guidelines

French minister for finance Michael Sapi with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan,  after their meeting in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall  Ireland

French minister for finance Michael Sapi with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, after their meeting in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan aligned himself with French pleas for clemency under EU fiscal guidelines as he ruled out voting for sanctions against Paris for breaching the rules.

Mr Noonan’s French counterpart, Michel Sapin, was in Dublin for political talks yesterday – the day of a decision by the European Commission to postpone until next March a determination on whether the budgets of France, Italy and Belgium violate the rules.

Promising that his country would meet all of its obligations this year, Mr Sapin told reporters at the Department of Finance that France did not want to change the rules but did want them to be applied intelligently.

No sanctions

Mr Sapin himself had said he raised the OECD’s project to overhaul global corporate tax law during their meeting, saying rules which enable big companies to pay little or no tax on their profits should be stamped out.

Though former centre-right French president Nicolas Sarkozy was in the vanguard of the assault on the irish corporate tax regime, Mr Noonan made no mention of that as he paid tribute to Ireland’s strong historical ties with France.

He said these were evident during the the Sarkozy administration, when Christine Lagarde was finance minister, and continued under Socialist president François Hollande.

“France has been one of Ireland’s closest friends over the centuries. I mean, since Napoleon sent a fleet to Bantry Bay and General Humbert landed in Killala, the French have been assisting us,” Mr Noonan said .

“During the Penal Times across the Irish colleges in Europe, Paris was where a lot of the young Irish were educated. So there is very very close relationship over the years .

“In more recent times, if we take the great historic jump forward until the troika arrived in Ireland, France and the French government across the political divide have been supporting us.”

This included the campaign to repay IMF loans early, Mr Noonan said.

“The first minister to come to me in Brussels and say we’ll support you on that proposal was Michel Sapin, and I want to thank him for that. we got that support, even without asking.

First to support

“Whether it was renegotiating the promissory note or reducing the interest rates or lengthening the term of the loans, France was always first up to support Ireland.

“So you can take it that I’ll generally be supportive of the French position and I won’t be supporting measures that would seek to penalise.”