Apple chief executive Tim Cook condemned the European Commission (EC) ruling that the firm should pay Ireland €13bn (£11bn, $14.5bn) in back taxes as "political c**p." He told the Irish Independent newspaper that the US tech giant had not been given preferential tax breaks in Ireland.

Earlier this week the EC said existing arrangements struck between Dublin and Apple broke European rules on state aid.

But Cook said he was "very confident" the ruling would be overturned on appeal, adding that he thought the commission is trying to harmonise tax rates across the EU.

He said: "There are other possibilities too, but I think it's clear that there is a desire to harmonise tax rates across the EU. Doing it this way doesn't seem like the right approach to me. There should be a public discussion about it."

Apple tax Ireland EU
Apple chief executive Tim Cook will appeal against the EC's £13bn back tax ruling Reuters

He also rejected the EC claim that Apple paid just 0.005% tax in Ireland in 2014.

He said: "It's total political c**p. They just picked a number from I don't know where. In the year that the commission says we paid that tax figure, we actually paid $400m. We believe that makes us the highest taxpayer in Ireland that year."

In an interview on RTÉ's Morning Ireland this morning, Cook described the ruling as "maddening and disappointing".

However, speaking in Brussels EC competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager rejected Cook's charge that that Apple's back tax bill was politically motivated.

Vestager said: "I know what we are obliged to do and that is to take decisions that are independent, based on the treaty, the facts of the case and can be checked by the European courts."

She also called on Apple and Ireland to allow the release of the confidential ruling so that people could see the detail behind the commission's arguments.

Vestager added: "I hope that Apple and Ireland will be as open and cooperative as possible in order to let us publish the decision as fast as possible. It is very good for everyone to see our reasoning."

The Irish cabinet met on Wednesday (31 August) to discuss the issue but failed to agree a position and will meet again on Friday to decide whether to appeal against the commission's decision.