Ganley says tax issue is key to Libertas campaign


CORPORATE TAX:THE CHAIRMAN of anti-Lisbon Treaty group Libertas has pledged to put its claims that a Yes vote could jeopardise Ireland’s corporate tax regime “front and centre” of the debate on the treaty from now until polling day.

“Ireland’s tax competitiveness is absolutely put into a very tenuous position if we say Yes to the Lisbon Treaty,” Declan Ganley said yesterday.

But the Tuam-based businessman also admitted that a No vote in the June 12th referendum would not “entirely eliminate” the risk to Ireland’s tax competitiveness.

Mr Ganley conceded that moves towards the introduction of a common consolidated corporate tax base could progress even if the Lisbon Treaty is rejected.

“It’s a fair point that the risk is not entirely eliminated with a No vote but it is decreased,” he said, going on to argue that rejecting the treaty would allow the Government negotiate further safeguards.

“We have a veto but the veto is not sufficient, it does not give us the protection we need from backdoor mechanisms that can undermine our tax competitiveness.”

Libertas has based much of its campaign around claims that the treaty’s provisions could enable a challenge to Ireland’s corporate taxation policy. It argues that the mechanism of enhanced co-operation could be used to undermine the State’s favourable rates, an argument dismissed by the Government.

Enhanced co-operation, which was already contained in the Nice Treaty, allows a group of member states to move ahead with closer integration in certain areas where unanimity cannot be achieved. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the number of member states required to advance in this manner would increase to nine.

Mr Ganley insisted a No vote would allow the Government negotiate a “better deal” for Ireland. “What we should be looking for in the new deal is a mechanism, a protocol, which protects us from the risk . A protocol is going to be better than just the so-called veto . . . We cannot get a worse deal than the one we are presented with at the moment. This is our last ace card to play. We should not give it away for nothing in return.”

Mr Ganley also attacked Yes campaigners such as Fine Gael, Labour and the employers’ body Ibec, saying they “cannot be trusted” on the issue of taxation.

He accused Ibec of changing its position and cited the example of Fine Gael MEPs, excluding Gay Mitchell, and Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa, who voted in the European Parliament in favour of the Bersani report, which called for the introduction of a common consolidated corporate tax base.

Labour’s spokesman on European affairs Joe Costello dismissed Mr Ganley’s comments as “groundless and deliberately misleading”.

He accused the group of ignoring the fact that the Bersani report specifically acknowledged that corporation tax rates were a matter for individual member states.

Ibec’s director of EU and international affairs Brendan Butler described as “dishonest” attempts by No campaigners to conflate the tax issue with the Lisbon Treaty.

“The independent Referendum Commission has stated categorically that nothing in the Lisbon Treaty changes the EU rules on tax. Despite this, Declan Ganley’s Libertas and other notable authorities on European law and the economy, such as Sinn Féin and Youth Defence, have repeated what we all know to be untruths. These claims are dishonest and are being made in a deliberate attempt to confuse voters,” Mr Butler said. He advised voters to look at the information provided by the Referendum Commission on the issue of tax and make up their own minds.