EU efforts to change Irish tax regime among potential MEPs’ concerns

Alex White and Frances Fitzgerald outline need to prepare for ‘big push’ from Brussels

Dublin European  election candidates take part in a hustings event in Dublin Chamber on Friday morning. Photograph: Conor McCabe

Dublin European election candidates take part in a hustings event in Dublin Chamber on Friday morning. Photograph: Conor McCabe

 

Ireland is in the “eye of the storm” in relation to potential challenges from the EU to our tax regime and should not be made a “victim” of any push to change our policies after Brexit, candidates for the European elections have said.

Seven Dublin candidates gave their pitch for the European Parliament at the Dublin Chamber on Friday morning ahead of the elections on May 23rd.

Labour candidate and former minister for communications Alex White said there could be a “big push” in the next few years to force Ireland to change its policies on tax.

“We can’t be seen to be defensive on this tax question, but I don’t think we should find ourselves as victims of some kind of big push in three years’ time. We should have our own ideas and be anticipating this issue coming up. It has to be addressed. We are in the eye of a storm on this issue.”

Fine Gael candidate and former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald said it was not the case that because the EU showed solidarity with Ireland on Brexit, they would demand the same solidarity in relation to changes to our corporation tax regime.

The State’s low 12.5 corporate tax rate has been the subject of controversy over the years.

“We are not going to be asked for a straight-forward exchange like, ‘We stood up for you so you’re going to have to change your tax’. But to be clear, we will be asked to show solidarity on a range of issues and we do not know what they are just yet,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

‘Greater transparency’

Sinn Féin candidate and MEP Lynn Boylan said Ireland needs to maintain its tax sovereignty “Yes, absolutely, we have to deal with corporation tax and have much greater transparency in this country around taxation but I don’t think anyone’s interest in Ireland is served by us handing over tax sovereignty to the EU and that is something we should defend.”

Fine Gael candidate and former SDLP leader Mark Durkan said one of the main reasons he is running is because of Brexit. “The issues that are churned up by Brexit aren’t just about the Border. They are issues for the island as whole. I want to be in the European Parliament whenever the next stage of negotiations happen on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, to make sure that we hardwire the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement into those new relationships.”

Fianna Fáil candidate and former minister of state Barry Andrews said that Ireland is at a “critical inflection point” in relation to Brexit and as a result “we need to elect 13 MEPs of the highest quality”.

Setting out stalls

“As Mary McAleese pointed out last week, it is a historical mistake that is going to cast a long shadow in the same way as the plantation of Ulster and the partition of this island. If there is anything that can be done to stop that we should do it.”

Each of the candidates were given an opportunity to set out their stall in front of business leaders at the Dublin Chamber.

Social Democrats councillor Gary Gannon said the “lack of prosperity shared around Europe is one of the fundamental dangers to the EU”.

He said “118 million people in Europe live in poverty in an institution that we have all benefited from, that built on the ideals of shared prosperity, and that won’t be able to sustain itself with that many people living in poverty”.

Green Party candidate and councillor Ciáran Cuffe said the big issues for Dublin are climate change, housing, traffic and the issue of Brexit. He also said the rise of right-wing nationalism needs to be confronted at a European level. “There is a time when you have to talk truth to power and I think particularly as we look across Europe and look at the rise of right-wing nationalism, it is very important to talk truth to power to people like Viktor Orbán in Hungary. There is a need to really censure those who go too far in terms of the comments that they are making.”