Taoiseach Micheál Martin and French President Emmanuel Macron reached agreement on Brexit, an EU response to the Afghan refugee crisis and a number of bilateral issues during talks in Dublin on Thursday.
However, during long discussions between the two men in the government buildings, there were differences in an international minimum corporate tax rate.
High-level sources confirmed differences between the two sides on a minimum international corporate tax rate, which has long been a source of tension between Dublin and Paris. France has been a strong supporter of the plans, while Ireland has refused to sign the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s proposals at a minimum of 15 percent.
Irish officials expressed concern that the OECD’s plan to set a global corporate tax rate of “at least” 15 percent would open the door to Brussels to seek a higher EU tax rate. French officials recognized such concerns but were under no obligation to do anything about it.
In a joint press conference following their meeting, Macron said he understood that the Irish economic model is “based on very low corporate tax in some ways,” but said the world will be different after Covid.
“Don’t put pressure on”
However, he insisted not to push Ireland in any particular direction. “I’m not one to put pressure on my boyfriend,” he said. “I want to believe that we will find the right path together because it makes sense.”
But, he said, citizens “want us to change a system” that allows multinationals to avoid taxes while small businesses have to pay. “I’m confident, but I’m not putting any pressure on, I’m working with your Taoiseach,” he said.
But there was obviously tension on this issue. A senior French source said of the process that “a grain of sand is in the mechanism and the grain of sand is Ireland,” while senior Irish sources admitted that difficult negotiations are ahead in the months ahead, with Ireland in an isolated position.
Ireland remains one of the last holdouts to refuse to support the OECD plan. Although Mr Macron said he was not trying to pressure Ireland, one Irish person said that was exactly what happened: “They pushed for us to join the OECD.”
However, the general mood of the meeting was overwhelmingly positive, officials said, with both leaders underscoring their support for a wide range of issues and commitment to shared EU approaches to international challenges such as migration and climate change.
The French also gave warm words of support for the Northern Ireland Protocol and Brexit. Both heads of state and government insisted that the UK must abide by the arrangements to leave the EU, but Mr Macron also had another message for Mr Martin in support of French support on the Brexit and protocol issue: “To be very clear , we’ll never let you down. “
Macron had previously met President Michael D. Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin, where they discussed the future of Europe with writers and intellectuals.
After meeting Mr. Martin in the government buildings, he attended Trinity College Dublin and the Guinness Storehouse before returning to the Áras for a working lunch with Mr. Higgins.
He returned to Paris late Thursday evening.