EU votes to break up Google (but it won't happen)

Emma Haslett
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Although the resolution does not mention it by name, it is aimed at Google (Source: Getty)

As hypothetical votes go, this is a big 'un. The European parliament has passed a resolution calling for Google to spin off its search engine business, in a pointed show of disapproval at the US search giant's practices.

Although the resolution doesn't mention Google by name, the catchily-titled "resolution on supporting consumer rights in the digital single market" does urge the European Commission to consider proposals "aimed at unbundling search engines from other commercial services". Google is by far the most dominant search engine in Europe, with an estimated 91 per cent market share

European lawmakers backed the motion 458 votes to 173, suggesting they are overwhelmingly in favour of splitting up the search giant.

Because the European parliament has no power over the matter, this is unlikely to affect Google's everyday dealings. However, the company has been subject to a four-year investigation by the European Commission, after rivals such as Microsoft and European publishers complained about its power. The outcome of the vote will only pile on the pressure for European antitrust boss Margrethe Vestager.

The resolution was called into question on Tuesday when it emerged Andreas Schwab, the German MEP who drafted it, is "of counsel" at German law firm CMS Hasche Sigle, which has represented "some of the German publishing interests that have been most eager to declaw Google".

The New York Times' Bits blog reported that Schwab earns "roughly $15,000 to $75,000 annually" from the law firm.

On Monday, Schwab and co-author Ramon Tremosa, a Spanish MEP, said a break-up of Google was only one option the resolution suggested.

Tremosa and Schwab are not ideological against Google - we are against monopolies. Unbundling is one of the ideas but we proposed several.

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