Ireland would like the UK’s relationship with the European Union to be closer than that of non-member Norway, but it will have to be a specific agreement as there is no precedent for the relationship, Taioseach Leo Varadkar said on Thursday.
"I think it will be a specific agreement for the United Kingdom. Of course as Ireland we want that to be as close as possible – we would have it 'Norway-plus' but I think we have to get into the detail now of what that means," he told Bloomberg Television in an interview in Davos, Switzerland.
Norway is part of the European Union’s single market, but not the customs union. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiation Michel Barnier in December said the future free trade agreement between the European Union and Britain would have to be along the same lines as the one the EU has with Canada.
But Mr Varadkar, who is in Davos for the World Economic Forum, said neither the Norwegian model nor the Canadian model would fit the UK.
“It’s difficult to compare it to Norway, which is a relatively small country... or a country like Canada, which is on a different continent,” he said.
While Britain has repeatedly said it will not remain in the EU customs union or single market, “perhaps we can negotiate something that isn’t very different to that,” Mr Varadkar said.
Such a deal would, however, require the UK to realise that it cannot cherry pick benefits of EU membership without the corresponding responsibilities.
Mr Varadkar also said the controversy over the Apple tax case “had not been very helpful” for Ireland’s reputation and that the bad press the country has received was unfair.
“We are really one of the most transparent countries when it comes to tax, the fact is we have a rate that is low, simple and transparent,” he said.
He reiterated that money owned from Apple would be collected in the second quarter. Separately , Revenue said Ireland will likely miss the deadline to have the final Apple tax bill calculated by March.
Mr Varadkar's comments come as Dutch politician Paul Tang accused Ireland of being a "tax pirate" and "stealing" the tax base from other countries,
Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Tang said Ireland has not taken into account the impact its corporate tax rate has on its European partners
He described countries like Ireland and Luxembourg as “tax pirates” because of the tax measures they have taken to attract multinational companies. “A small country like Ireland has more foreign investment than Germany or France, that’s weird.”
Ireland’s investment is ultimately down to “loads of paper constructions” to avoid taxes, he said.