Ireland readied defences on Friday for a fresh battle with Paris over its low corporate tax rate, after French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to take a swipe at the policy in a keynote speech on the future of Europe.
Sarkozy, who for months protested Ireland should only get a cut in the cost of its EU/IMF bailout loans if it raised the 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, told supporters on Thursday states with low tax rates that receive European aid were competing disloyally with the others.
Seeking re-election in April, Sarkozy has said little about Irish corporate tax since dropping a demand in July that Dublin cut it in return for a reduction in bailout loan interest rates.
At that time, Ireland Prime Minister Enda Kenny said the issue was fini.
Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister said on Friday that Dublin's position had not changed.
The position of the Irish government is absolutely clear: we are retaining our rate of corporation tax, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore told national broadcaster RTE.
It is hugely important for us to provide that certainty for investors and potential investors.
Dublin considers its 12.5 percent tax on the profits of multinational companies based in the country a cornerstone of its economic policy.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said last week increased oversight of budgetary policy in Europe would not relate to tax rates.
Ireland has welcomed European Commission proposals for new, intrusive laws over euro zone budgets, but Germany's call for rapid EU treaty change has sent shivers down the spine of the Irish establishment.
Ireland would likely need a referendum to change the EU treaty. The government has warned it would be difficult to get such a vote past an electorate still smarting from Europe's tough approach to the rescue package.
A fresh French onslaught on Ireland's corporate tax rate would only make a referendum more difficult.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and David Hulmes)