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London says 'No' to EU financial transactions tax

British ministers put up stiff resistance to plans, saying tax can only be viable if applied worldwide

AFP, Tuesday 8 Nov 2011
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EU finance ministers ran into British opposition Tuesday at the bloc's first formal debate on imposing a tax on financial transactions.

The stiff resistance from London during Brussels talks echoed already firm Chinese and US objections that carried the day at a G20 summit last week.
 
Ministers from Belgium and Austria each said they could see the tax working initially just in the 17 currency partners.
 
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble said the argument that such a tax will only work if brought in worldwide is "an argument for doing nothing."
 
Britain however has argued at G7 and G20 talks that the tax can only be viable at worldwide level.
 
But at the end of the day, European Union decisions on tax need unanimity, and while the European Commission wants the tax introduced by 2014 and France is pushing for 2012 -- Britain crucially remains solidly against.
 
With 80 per cent of Europe's financial services industry housed in the square mile that makes up the City of London, the government there has previously expressed fears of encouraging capital flight to Switzerland and rival global trading centres.
 
But British finance minister George Osborne took a different tack as he went into the talks, saying: "There is not a single bank in the world that is going to pay this tax, not a single banker."
 
He underlined: "The people who are going to pay this tax are pensioners," at the end of the line.
 
Saying he was "all in favour" of Europe applying the equivalent of Britain's bank levy, Osborne said continental politicians were not being honest with their voters.
 
The money supporters say can be raised has already been spent "four times over," he maintained, citing calls to boost the EU's direct budget, national public finances, overseas aid and climate mitigation commitments.
 
The Commission sees potential revenues of 55 billion euros per year, shared between the EU's central structures and its 27 member states, at the level of a 0.1-per cent tax on shares dealings and 0.01 per cent on derivatives and other products.
 
But Osborne told his fellow ministers in open debate to focus instead on creating jobs.
 
"I would suggest we put to rest the idea that there is going to be some kind of European Financial Transactions Tax," he concluded.
 
Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg pointed out that a financial transactions tax in his country saw implementation costs out-run revenues.
 
More fundamentally in the present climate, he also said the idea was "a non-starter" because it will only succeed in "lowering growth," making the damage from
 
Europe's debt crisis, already exacerbated by near-flatlined growth and the threat of recession next year, even worse.
 
Luxembourg's Luc Frieden said the debate suggested neither a green light nor a red light, but "an amber light" for further talks.
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