On Tuesday the European Commission ruled that the Republic of Ireland granted Apple undue tax benefits of up to €13bn (£11bn), and ordered that the company pay this sum back to the Irish Government with interest. On Friday morning the Irish cabinet agreed to appeal against the ruling, but not without hesitation from some Independent Ministers. Sources within Fine Gael, the government’s largest party, had claimed if the Independent Ministers did not agree to the appeal it would place the future of the administration in jeopardy. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has said he was “very confident” the Commission’s ruling would be overturned on appeal; he described the Commission’s decision as “maddening” and “political”. Speaking after the cabinet meeting on Friday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “This is about Ireland, it is about our people, it’s about us as a sovereign nation, actually setting out what we consider our appropriate policies”.
On Sunday German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU party was beaten into third place in the north-eastern German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern by anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Recent opinion polls ahead of the vote had shown AfD making significant gains amid growing discontent with Merkel and her open-door policy. As widely reported, voters already punished Mrs Merkel’s CDU in three state elections in March; this election will be followed by another key vote in Berlin in two weeks’ time, ahead of national elections next September. Following this week’s result it is expected Mrs Merkel will come under more pressure to change her welcoming position on refugees.
Northern Ireland Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir may scrap plans for a multi-year budget after he told Executive colleagues, in light of so much economic uncertainty he would like to produce a one-year plan for spending in 2017/18. The Executive had been working on a budget that would last until the next Assembly election in 2021, but the Finance Minister says he believes a one-year budget would be “the prudent way forward”. As reported by the BBC, the budget cannot be put together until Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement, with its likely knock-on consequences for the Stormont block grant. Mr Ó Milleoir said; “It’s very important we don’t fall into the trap of focussing on where the [Brexit] negotiations will bring us and forget about the here and now.”
The US and China this week both formally signed up to the Paris global climate agreement, described as the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement. In December 2015 countries agreed to seek to cut emissions in a bid to keep the global average rise in temperatures below 2C. It is estimated that the US and China together are responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions. US President Barack Obama said; “History will judge today’s effort as pivotal.” The deal will come into force legally after ratified by at least 55 countries. The UK is yet to ratify the deal.
Ahead of this week’s G20 summit, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted the UK can prosper and become a “global leader” in free trade outside of the European Union. Speculation has it that Australia could be the first country to agree a free trade deal with the UK after Brexit. On what is the PM’s debut on the international stage, Mrs May faces questions over her priorities ahead of and after Brexit, and over relationships with Russia, China and other countries. Mrs May and her ministers maintain the UK’s economic and diplomatic status will not be diminished after Brexit.