Britain as a tax haven? It already is

As Britain readies itself to trigger Article 50, it appears to have given up on seeking EU allies for the negotiations to come, threatening instead to turn itself into a full-blown tax haven. This is a worrying sign of the number of paddles with which Prime Minister Theresa May has equipped herself for the planned expedition up Brexit creek.

As many of those sitting across the table from the British prime minister know, turning the U.K. into a tax haven will cause more damage inside the country than it will across the Channel. Indeed, if the May government carries out its threat to be a bad neighbor, it is the remaining 27 EU countries that stand to benefit.

Tax havens share three broad characteristics: financial secrecy, which allows companies to hide their income and assets from those who might wish to tax them; loose tax rules and low tax rates, which provide incentives for companies to shift profits to the haven; and loose financial regulations, which provide mechanisms facilitating the laundering of funds.

By these measures, the U.K. is already well on its way to becoming a tax haven. Britain has long off-shored its secrecy to the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, places like the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the Isle of Man, rinsing the funds of traces of their origins before they flow to the City of London. If this network of secrecy is considered as a single entity, it sits at the top of the Tax Justice Network’s financial secrecy index as the biggest threat to global financial transparency.

Similarly, when it comes to corporate taxes, successive U.K. governments have led the race to the bottom — seeking to turn the country into the most “tax competitive” major economy. This impetus has survived both government-funded and independent analyses demonstrating that the U.K. Treasury is a net loser from such policies.

Finally, the U.K. has long offered a deliberately soft touch on financial regulation. American authorities, for example, were dismayed, if not altogether surprised, to find that it was the London operations of a number of U.S. financial institutions that blew up during the financial crisis.

The European Union, by contrast, has led the way in the fight against tax havens. The EU’s savings directive set the global standard on automatic processes for exchanging banking information and took important steps in establishing public registers of the beneficial ownership of companies in its new anti-money laundering directive. State aid investigations spearheaded by the EU also challenge corporate tax abuses, as in the case of corporate giants such as Apple, Starbucks and Fiat.

The British government is correct to note that Brexit will provide the U.K. with greater liberty in its pursuit of becoming a tax haven. What it seems to have failed to take into account is that leaving the EU will also provide Brussels with more power in addressing that threat.

For example, British financial services companies will need so-called “passporting rights” if they are to operate on the Continent. The EU could make these conditional not only on meeting the bloc’s regulatory standards, but also on maintaining pace with its financial transparency rules. And with the U.K. absent in the legislation process, it is likely that these regulations will become more severe.

Similarly, the EU’s use of objectively verifiable criteria in blacklisting tax havens is likely to prove a potent antidote to British secrecy laws. And any pain the bloc would suffer from putting British financial services off limits would likely be small, when one takes into account the quick relocation of the financial sector’s jobs and taxable income from the U.K. to the Continent.

In the area of corporate profit-shifting, aggressive attempts by the Treasury to encourage corporations to shift their profits to the U.K. could provide the trigger for the EU to finally push through its Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, a policy it has attempted to get off the ground for years, often in the face of opposition from the U.K.

This policy would ensure that the EU’s share of multinational enterprises’ taxable profits corresponds with the real economic activity taking place within the bloc. It would seriously hinder the U.K.’s attempts to slash corporate taxes to attract European business by removing EU corporations’ ability to move their income elsewhere.

If the U.K. carries out its threat to become a tax haven, it will condemn itself to major economic costs — and to significant political damage. A tax and regulatory race to the bottom would undercut public services, exacerbate inequality and depress long-term growth.

The threat may be empty when it comes to the EU, but it remains very real when it comes to British citizens.

— source politico.eu By Alex Cobham

Today is a day of shame for the British military

26 March 2003
Today is a day of shame for the British military as it declares the Iraqi city of Basra, with a stricken population of 600,000, a “military target”.

You will not read or hear those words in the establishment media that claims to speak for Britain.

But they are true. With Basra, shame is now our signature, forged by Blair and Bush.

Having destroyed its water and power supplies, cut off food supply routes and having failed to crack its human defences, they are now preparing to lay siege to Iraq’s second city which is more than 40 per cent children.

What an ignominious moment in British history. Here is an impoverished country under attack by a superpower, the United States, which has unimaginable wealth and the world’s most destructive weapons, and its “coalition” accomplice, Britain, which boasts one of the world’s best “professional” armies.

Believing their own propaganda, the military brass has been stunned by the Iraqi resistance.

They have tried to belittle the militia defending Basra with lurid stories that its fighters are killing each other.

The truth is that the Iraqis are fighting like lions to defend not a tyrant but their homeland. It is a truth the overwhelming majority of decent Britons will admire.

The historical comparison Tony Blair and his propagandists fear is that of the British defending themselves against invasion. That happened 60 years ago and now “we” are the rapacious invaders.

Yesterday, Blair said that 400,000 Iraqi children had died in the past five years from malnutrition and related causes. He said “huge stockpiles of humanitarian aid” and clean water awaited them in Kuwait, if only the Iraqi regime would allow safe passage.

In fact, voluminous evidence, including that published by the United Nations Children’s Fund, makes clear that the main reason these children have died is an enduring siege, a 12-year embargo driven by America and Britain.

As of last July, $5.4billion worth of humanitarian supplies, approved by the UN and paid for by the Iraqi government, were blocked by Washington, with the Blair government’s approval. The former assistant secretary general of the UN, Denis Halliday, who was sent to Iraq to set up the “oil for food programme”, described the effects of the embargo as “nothing less than genocide”. Similar words have been used by his successor, Hans Von Sponeck.

Both men resigned in protest, saying the embargo merely reinforced the power of Saddam.

Both called Blair a liar.

And now Blair’s troops are firing their wire-guided missiles to “soften up” Basra.

I have walked the city’s streets, along a road blown to pieces by a US missile. The casualties were children, of course, because children are everywhere. I held a handkerchief over my face as I stood in a school playground with a teacher and several hundred malnourished youngsters.

The dust blew in from the southern battlefields of the 1991 Gulf War, which have never been cleaned up because the US and British governments have denied Iraq the specialist equipment.

The dust, Dr Jawad Al-Ali told me, carries “the seeds of our death”. In the children’s wards of Basra’s main hospital, deaths from a range of hitherto unseen cancers are common and specialists have little doubt that up to half the population of southern Iraq will die from cancers linked to the use of a weapon of mass destruction used by the Americans and British – uranium tipped shells and missiles.

ONCE again, the Americans are deploying what Professor Doug Rokke, a former US Army physicist, calls “a form of nuclear weapon that contaminates everything and everyone”.

Today, each round fired by US tanks contains 4,500 grams of solid uranium, whose particles, breathed or ingested, can cause cancer.

This, and the use by both the Allies of new kinds of cluster bombs, is being covered up.

Once again, the British public is being denied the reality of war.

Images of bandaged children in hospital wards are appearing on TV but you do not see the result of a Tornado’s cluster bombing.

You are not being shown children scalped by shrapnel, with legs reduced to bloody pieces of string.

Such images are “not acceptable”, because they will disturb viewers – and the authorities do not want that. These “unseen” images are the truth. Iraqi parents have to look at their mutilated children, so why shouldn’t those of us, in whose name they were slaughtered, see what they see?

Why shouldn’t we share their pain? Why shouldn’t we see the true nature of this criminal invasion?

Other wars were sanitised, allowing them to be repeated.

If you have satellite TV, try to find the Al Jazeera channel, which has distinguished itself with its coverage. When the Americans bombed Afghanistan, one of their “smart” bombs destroyed the Al Jazeera office in Kabul. Few believe it was an accident. Rather, it was a testimony to the channel’s independent journalism.

Remember, it is not those who oppose this war who need to justify themselves, regardless of Blair’s calls to “support our troops”. There is only one way to support them – bring them home without delay.

In 1932, Iraqis threw out their British colonial rulers. In 1958, they got rid of the Hashemite monarchy.

Iraqis have shown they can overthrow dictators against the odds. So why have they not been able to throw out Saddam?

Because the US and Britain armed him and propped him up while it suited them, making sure that when they tired of him, they would be the only alternative to his rule and the profiteers of his nation’s resources. Imperialism has always functioned like that.

The “new Iraq”, as Blair calls it, will have many models, such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, all of them American conquests and American ruled until Washington allowed a vicious dictatorship to take over.

Saddam only came to power after the Americans helped install his Ba’ath Party in 1979. “That was my favourite coup,” said the CIA officer in charge.

Keep in mind the cynicism behind these truths when you next hear Blair’s impassioned insincerity – and when you glimpse, if you can, the “unacceptable” images of children killed and mangled in your name, and in the cause of what the Prime Minister calls “our simple patriotism”.

It’s the kind of patriotism, wrote Tolstoy, “that is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason and conscience.”

— source johnpilger.com

UK Fracking Giant Fails to Imprison Grandmother

Tina Rothery, a grandmother and resident of Blackpool in North England, was met by a jubilant crowd of hundreds outside Preston Court on Friday, December 9, when the verdict of her freedom was announced. People of every age, from each corner of the British Isles, turned out for the decision and spent all day waiting outside the court to hear it.

Rothery was under threat of prison after taking part in a peaceful protest camp against Cuadrilla’s plans to frack her region in 2014. At that time, the anti-fracking group The Nanas organized a three-week occupation in a field adjacent to the site where the company ought to drill.

— source occupy.com

Blair’s forgotten victims

25 April 2005

A familiar, if desperate media push is under way to convince the British people that the main political parties offer them a democratic choice in the general election on 5 May. This demonstrable absurdity became hilarious when Tony Blair, leader of one of the nastiest, most violent right-wing regimes in memory, announced the existence of “a very nasty right-wing campaign” to defeat him. If only it was that funny. If only it was possible to read the “ah but” tributes to a “successful” Labour government without cracking a rib. If only it was possible to read warmongers bemoaning the “apathy” of the British electorate without one’s laughter being overtaken by the urge to throw up.

Truth can be subverted, but for millions of decent Britons the subversion is over, and the penny has finally dropped. For that, they have Blair to thank. On 5 May, they will silently go on strike against a corrupt, undemocratic system, as they did at the last election, producing the lowest turnout since the franchise, including barely a third in some constituencies. Others will come under extraordinary pressure to put aside considerations of basic morality and vote for this “successful” Blair government. They – allow me to change that to you – ought to be aware of what this will mean for your fellow human beings.

By voting for Blair, you will walk over the corpses of at least 100,000 people, most of them innocent women and children and the elderly, slaughtered by rapacious forces sent by Blair and Bush, unprovoked and in defiance of international law, to a defenceless country. That conservative estimate is the conclusion of a peer-reviewed Anglo-American study, published in the British medical journal the Lancet. It is the most reliable glimpse we have of the criminal carnage caused by Blair and Bush in Iraq, and it is suppressed in this election “campaign”.

By voting for Blair, you will be turning a deaf ear to the cries of countless Iraqi children blown up by British cluster bombs and poisoned by toxic explosions of depleted uranium. These unseen victims of Blair and Bush – including Iraqi women who have developed rare “pregnancy cancer”, and children with unexplained leukaemia – will not be your concern. According to one of the military experts who cleaned up Kuwait after the 1991 Gulf war, Blair and Bush have created “another Hiroshima” in parts of Iraq. You will be voting to endorse that.

By voting for Blair, you will turn away from the tens of thousands of children left to starve in Iraq by his and Bush’s invasion. On 30 March, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights heard that malnutrition rates among Iraqi infants under the age of five had almost doubled since the invasion – double the number of hungry children under Saddam Hussein. The author of the report to the commission, Jean Ziegler, a UN specialist on hunger, said the “coalition” was to blame.

By voting for Blair, you will be affirming that liars triumph. Blair is a liar on such an epic scale that even those who still protect him with parliamentary euphemisms, like Robin Cook (“He knew perfectly well what he was doing. I think there was a lack of candour”) and the Guardian and the BBC, now struggle to finesse his perjury.

Take his latest lie. On 13 March, Jonathan Dimbleby asked Blair about the leaked memo of David Manning, the Prime Minister’s foreign policy adviser, in which Manning confirmed to Blair in March 2002 that he had assured the Americans “you would not budge in your support for regime change”. Blair lied to Dimbleby that “actually he didn’t say that as a matter of fact”: Manning “[made] clear that the development of WMDs in breach of the United Nations resolutions will no longer be tolerated”.

Following are the words Manning wrote to Blair: “I said [to Condoleezza Rice] that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different [from] anything in the States.” There is no mention, nothing, about United Nations resolutions, or weapons of mass destruction.

By voting for Blair, you will invite more lies about terrorist scares in Britain so that totalitarian laws can be enacted. “I have a horrible feeling that we are sinking into a police state,” said George Churchill-Coleman, the former head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad. Like the fake reasons for Blair’s tanks around Heathrow on the eve of the greatest anti-war demonstration in British history, so anything, any scare, any arrest, any “control order”, will be possible.

By voting for Blair, you will fall for the spin, the myth, of the social reformism and “economic achievements” of his government. The ban on fox-hunting and the lowering of the age of gay consent are political and media distractions that do nothing to protect a social democracy being progressively shorn of ancient liberties, such as those enshrined in Magna Carta.

The ballyhooed “boom” and “growth” in Britain have been

booms for the rich, not for ordinary people. With scant media attention, the Blair government has transferred billions of pounds’ worth of public services into private hands under the private finance initiative (PFI). The “fees”, or rake-off, for PFI projects in 2006-2007 will be in the order of £6.3bn, more than the cost of many of the projects: a historic act of corporate piracy. Neither is new Labour “supporting” the National

Health Service, but privatising it by stealth; by 2006-2007 private

contracts will rise by 150 per cent. Under Gordon Brown, Britain has the distinction of having created more than half the world’s tax havens, so that the likes of Rupert Murdoch are able to pay minimal tax. “Growth” has meant the rapid growth in the gap between rich and poor. Top executives’ pay has risen by 500 per cent while the average rise in earnings is 45 per cent.

Contrary to Blair’s and Brown’s claims, poverty among adults of working age without children is increasing. In 2002-2003, the last year for which figures are available, 12.4 million people, or 22 per cent of the population, were living in poverty. As for the myth of almost full employment, this government’s skill at constantly massaging figures has, for example, allowed jobcentres to reclassify workers as long-term sick or disabled in order to meet targets for “reducing” unemployment. There has indeed been a boom – in insecure, part-time and temporary employment with few rights and poor conditions. Trapped in this half-world are some 8.8 million workers, many of whom are lucky to get a couple of days’ paid work a week. For middle-class Britons who believe they are beneficiaries of the “boom”, there is the spectre of personal debt – which, under Labour, is rising at the rate of £15m an hour, faster than even in America.

Little of this is up for discussion. In 2005, we have an election, not politics; a media court, not critical debate. True politics is about all of humanity, and our responsibility for those who commit crimes in our name. No reverence for the sanctity of a debased vote or a false choice – or the lesser evil of a non-existent, sentimental, pre-Blair party – will change that. We owe that truth to the people of Iraq, at least.

— source johnpilger.com