A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

Anything to say? Contact me at europeandisunion@yahoo.co.uk

Friday, 23 March 2012

No Taxation Without Representation

Robin Hood: more of a 'man of the people' than any Commissioner will ever be.

The Commission has finally resorted to bribery to ease the implementation of its financial transactions (aka. 'Robin Hood') tax: if countries, thus far reticent about allowing a supranational body to directly level taxes on legal entities under their jurisdiction, agree to play ball then their net contribution fees to the European Commission will be reduced by half. The idea is that of the EU’s Budget Commissioner, Janusz Lewandowski, who, facing stiff opposition from Germany, the UK, France, and others, has had to come up with more innovative ways to get his message across.
Like most deals, it sounds attractive until you boil it down: allowing the Commission to impose a tax on large financial transactions well beyond what most of us will ever deal with, and in return we all save a substantial amount of money. £7,600,000,000, in fact - or one hundred and twenty four pounds extra that the government could spend on every single person in the country. If you're brain skipped that number, rather than reading it, then you've got a measure of just how big it us. But, boiled down, it does not sound quite as appealing: let us, an unelected body, set taxes over the heads of your elected parliaments and we won’t charge you so much for the privilege of our governorship. Not only would accepting this deal a titanic blow to our notion of ‘democratic control,’ allowing an unelected, unaccountable, and largely unknown institution to plumb the depths of our pockets without us being able to do a thing about it, but it is also nonsensical: why should we get our money back? Why should we be paying in the first place> The Commission doesn’t do anything that our elected pdoesn’t, or couldn’t.
Our elected government could put in place an exact replica of anything the Commission espouses, to the same effect. The tax itself would remain unchanged; it’s the institution that’s different. Not only would this be infinitely more democratic, ensuring that the only institution that can rifle through our family budgets remains directly accountable to us, but we’d save double the amount that the Commission are offering, simply because we would not be paying them a penny in the first place. We would keep all the £15,200,000,000 that we are scheduled to give them in net contribution over the next ten years alone (assuming that our contribution doesn’t rise - and it always does). Put simply, we can have exactly the same thing, without sacrificing our democratic control over the government, or shelling out much-needed cash. When the contrast is made between having a national government putting in place an FTT or the European Commission doing the same, the national, democratic option comes off better in every respect.
That is if we do go down the route of a financial transactions tax, of course: that would be a very risky action, considering that our economy is shaky at the moment and the only sector we can consistently count on is the financial one. London is still clinging on to its title as the world’s financial capital, and in times when we’re not exactly outdoing ourselves with the growth figures it would be irresponsible to let any economic advantage slide, much less give it away to one of our close competitors. But no matter what the idea is, and no matter how vehemently you disagree with it, it is far better that it is put in place in as democratic a way as possible. After all, loss of money is temporary, and easy to rectify. Loss of control is not. We can always repeal a law or tax we don’t like, provided we have control over the people who set it.


  1. Why do so few people recognise this for what it is. As your title says, it is "Taxation Without Representation". Did we learn nothing from 1776?

    That the commission is desperate to have direct tax raising powers, seems to be being ignored, but they just will not give up. First the FTT then the gate is open to whatever taxes they think of.

  2. Any lessons learned a long since forgotten. They'll be remembered quickly when someone we've never heard of is rifling through our wallets.