The panama paper-chase widens
So far, there has been a broad uniformity of outlook between many of the papers on the Panama story. Today, however, that quasi-unanimity breaks down. The Mail, for example, throws Cameron a life-line: “Enough of this madness” – adding “For many, inheritance tax is itself immoral”. It calls on Cameron to make the case for parents’ right to pass wealth on to children – which apparently he intends to do, according to the Telegraph.
The Mirror, by contrast, raises a new issue. When Cameron cashed his £30,000 stake in his father’s company Blairmore Holdings in 2010, it emerges that he also cashed in other shares worth £72,000. He has made no statement regarding those shares, and Downing Street insists that he won’t. “Do you want to see his bank statements when he was eighteen?” they ask.
The Guardian fingers Edward Troup, Head of HMRC. They say that previously his law firm acted for Blairmore, Cameron Senior’s investment fund, and ask whether there might be a conflict of interests, since HMRC will lead the investigation into the Panama papers.
The Times broadens the issue to the next obvious victim, George Osborne, who is said to be about to publish his own tax returns. Where does this stop? Will all MPs publish? Will there then be pressure on the Downing Street Cat to follow suit?
New Day Headlines “Truth About Tax”. In the Express, Leo McKinstry makes explicit the link with Brexit: “Why Cameron’s tax crisis makes Brexit more likely”. Let’s hope he’s right.
Meantime in a thoughtful opinion piece in the Times, Tim Montgomerie argues forcefully that the witch-hunt on politicians’ private affairs is not the solution to a lack of trust in politics, and may have the perverse effect of discouraging good people from entering the public arena.
“UK Muslim Ghettoes”
The Mail headlines “Warning on UK Muslim Ghettoes – Nation within a nation developing warns former head of equalities watchdog”.The warning comes from Trevor Phillips, former Head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and follows a new survey of British Muslim attitudes which will be the basis of a Channel 4 documentary on Wednesday. Philips says he used to believe that British Muslims would, over time, come to accept Western values, but he now fears that this survey shows otherwise. Young Muslims largely share the views of their parents on social attitudes.
The research shows attitudes to women, family and relationships that are widely at variance with accepted norms in the West. Worryingly, there is also more sympathy with extreme views than most of us would like to think. This story was earlier covered in The Sunday Times. Phillips says that extremist ideas have flourished while politicians claim “only a tiny minority hold dangerous views”, and that an estimated 100,000 British Muslims admit having sympathy with “suicide bombers fighting injustice”.
This of course is not particularly a Brexit Referendum issue. But the story will do nothing to assuage widespread public concern about immigration, which is a key issue in the referendum campaign, especially in the light of the Paris and Brussels bombings.
“EU wants control of your pension”
The Express runs this alarming headline over a story that the Commission has advanced plans for “a social union” which could control member-states’ pensions. It quotes David Campbell Bannerman as say that the Commission is holding back a large volume of contentious legislative proposals until after the British Referendum in June. (As we have repeatedly warned, there is no status quo in the EU – it’s a process that keeps getting worse. A Remain vote is a vote for staying on the Runaway Train. I Tweeted recently that Commissioner Sefcovic, in my hearing, had promised “a tsunami of legislation”).
EU costs: fancy another £50 bn?
The Times reports a decision by the European Court of Justice which strikes down tax rules previously passed in Westminster. This has already required HMRC to return £8bn to companies between 2005 and 2014, and could cost a total of £50 billion in the end. That’s a massive sum – nearly 2½% of UK GDP, and an enormous loss to the Treasury at a time when we’re struggling with a stubborn deficit, and the public are tiring of austerity. Put it another way. If we’re paying £350 million a week to Brussels, that’s nearly three years’ worth of additional contributions.
As the Times helpfully points out, the extra £7.3 billion which HMRC is expected to pay out between 2016 and 2020 would build two more aircraft carriers like HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Aside from the mind-blowing sum, it’s the principle of the thing that is so outrageous. We elect our MPs to Westminster, and one of their key tasks is to vote a Budget. Yet a foreign court with foreign judges is able to over-rule our elected parliament, and declare its decisions contrary to EU law. And we meekly pay up. Time to fight back. The only way is Brexit.
Steel: reprieve for Scunthorpe; Port Talbot still in play
The papers report that a deal with investor Grey Bull may be announced today for Scunthorpe, saving 4000 jobs directly and thousands more in the area dependent on the steel plant. This is wonderful news for Scunthorpe, and we wish them well. Meantime negotiations continue for Tata’s Port Talbot plant, with Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty House in pole position. However Gupta has said “he could walk away” unless he gets the terms he wants. Reportedly the two key issues are the pension fund, which Gupta is unwilling to take on, and the issue of energy prices. We in UKIP have repeatedly emphasised that energy prices are a key issue behind the decline of British steel-making. The blame attaches both to Brussels for its obsessive over-commitment to expensive and intermittent renewables, and to George Osborne for his gold-plating and his Carbon Price Floor which have made UK energy prices even higher than those on the continent.