Thursday, 14 February 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
28. To ask the Minister for Finance his views on the call by the EU Commission for the Government's views on the streamlining of EU decision-making by removing national vetoes in some areas of taxation policy and ending unanimity on taxes. [7155/19]
As the Minister will probably know, the EU Commission is not shy about letting us know that it sees Brexit as an opportunity to ramp up its agenda of federalisation, particularly in respect of tax issues. Will the Minister reassure us that he rejects the latest Commission attempt to remove the veto of this country, and of every other country, over tax matters?
I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 28.
I dealt with this matter earlier on but I will reaffirm that I will not be changing my position or that of the Government in respect of taxation policy within the European Commission and European Union. I am at a loss to understand Sinn Féin's view of the European Union. On the one hand it acknowledges and lauds the support it offers in respect of the great challenge we face in ensuring that there is no return to a hard border on our island while on the other hand I consistently hear a continued approach of attacking the European Union and seeing anything it does in a very hostile light. I heard this approach from Deputy Pearse Doherty only a few moments ago. To answer the Deputy's question again, I will not be changing the view of the Government with regard to how we handle decision-making on tax matters. Many other countries within the European Union feel the same way on the matter.
Politically, the Minister may or may not agree that the EU without Britain will be seen as an EU in which weight has shifted towards the federalist agenda. The Minister needs a strategy to ensure national sovereignty is respected. The Government's position, which is to let the OECD deal with the matter, is considered by many to be a tactical consideration based on the presumption that the OECD will never do anything, or at least nothing significant, to enact change anytime soon. The Commission's target is the infamous passerelle clause which, as the Minister knows, was introduced by the Lisbon treaty. This is a means of removing the veto. As the Minister will be well aware, once the veto is gone it is gone for good. From a sovereignty point of view there can be no question of facilitating any removal of our veto through the passerelle clause. Does the Minister expect any formal proposal to use this clause in the coming period? Will he be definitive here and now that Ireland's answer will be "No"?
I agree with the Deputy that the equilibrium within the European Union will change as the United Kingdom departs. The Government has acknowledged this on a number of occasions. What used to be out largest and most significant ally on a number of policy matters will no longer be around the table. The Deputy is correct in that regard. We have now redoubled our efforts to secure a group of countries with which to work on areas that matter to us. I have been at the heart of this within the finance Minister community. I have been working hard with my Dutch, Nordic, and Baltic colleagues with regard to areas of common concern. We are now seeing more countries come forward and explain why they, for different reasons, do not support a change in the decision-making process on tax policy. Those countries have reaffirmed their views as recently as this week.