tax havens

Why is HSBC a fit and proper person to hold a banking licence?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/02/2018 - 6:07pm in

The FT has reported this morning that:

HSBC has warned that it could pay at least $1.5bn in penalties over alleged tax evasion and money laundering at its Swiss private bank, casting a shadow over Stuart Gulliver’s final day as chief executive.

The estimate underlines how the outgoing HSBC boss has struggled to get to grips with the string of scandals thrown up by a number of ill-judged acquisitions dating back to before he took over in 2011.

They added:

The warning about further penalties came after HSBC agreed to pay €300m in November to settle an investigation by the French public prosecutor into allegations it helped clients evade taxes in 2006 and 2007. HSBC said it had $604m of provisions outstanding at the end of December relating to its private bank, which is being investigated in several countries, including the US, Belgium, Argentina, India and Spain. But it said “management’s estimate of the possible aggregate penalties” could exceed $1.5bn, which a spokesman described as a worst-case scenario.

Most worrying though was this comment:

Mr Gulliver said that after multibillion-dollar investments in compliance and controls “HSBC is in a stronger and a better position today to protect itself and therefore the banking system from bad actors than it was in 2010”.

What this shows is that after all this time HSBC thinks itself the victim and that it is merely paying the price of having customers who evaded. Apparently they still cannot see that they, as deliberate supplier of the structures that exploited bank, corporate and tax haven secrecy were responsible for the wholly foreseeable consequence of their use. Thankfully it seems that regulators can see through the charade and are imposing the penalties on those most responsible for the curse of tax evasion - which is those who supply what I have for a long time called corruption services.

But that still leaves questions to be asked.

The first is that if HSBC still does not get this, after paying billions in fines already and expecting to pay billions more, why is it fit and proper to hold a banking licence?

The second is to ask where the moral leadership is in this issue? Instead of playing the victim why isn't it driving the process of reform to deliver transparency? It's years since I first began writing about this story. Despite social attitudes changing enormously in the world at large since then there is not a hint of real change at HSBC, who still do not seem to think they did anything wrong bar getting caught. And again I ask, why are they still considered fit and proper to hold a banking licence?

And third, where is the parliamentary enquiry on this? If any other company admitted it was expecting to pay $1.5 bn in fines there would be an enquiry. So why not into this? To put it another way; why isn't parliament asking why HSBC is still considered to be a fit and proper person to hold a banking licence?

When the wealthy find it pays them to support kleptocrats that’s exactly what they do

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/02/2018 - 6:02pm in

I would like a world where there was no need for development aid.

To say so is not to come over all Daily Express / Rees-Moggish all of a sudden. I have worked towards that aim for most of this century. This, at its core, is what tax justice is all about.

This is not a discussion of disaster assistance: that is quite another issue. I am talking about development here.

When John Christensen and I spent many hours about fifteen years ago discussing what tax justice was for and how we might achieve the goal our mutual interest in the needs of developing countries was a common focus. What we wanted was a world where aid was not needed. What we saw was a world where to that date the thinking on how to achieve this had not gone far enough.

At the turn of the century development agencies had tried aid. But sending resources was not enough.

And they'd campaigned on trade, but candidly they'd got most of the economics wrong.

And they had very successfully highlighted issues around debt, but that was to deliver a fix to an issue and not to create systemic reform.

What was needed was a mechanism to ensure that the so called developing countries could move on from aid and become the fully fledged, self-governing, democratic and self-supporting states that they deserved to be, that their people rightly demanded, and that anyone who respected them should wish for.

We were quite sure we had two mechanisms to deliver that. One was tax. The other was transparency. We wrapped them together under the banner tax justice. I wish I could say that the rest is history, but it's not yet.

The word 'yet' is right though. That is because the ideas that John and I created - first really summarised here and subsequently updated here -  were deliberately and unambiguously designed to be the 'fourth leg' (after aid, trade and debt) of development, turning an unstable stool into a rock solid chair. We always intended to recruit development agencies to deliver our goals. We brought the ideas. They bought them and have become the delivery mechanism for tax justice.

And the aim is a post development world.

The goal was to make sure that the world became tax compliant.

We knew that in countries where many were too poor to pay tax that the contribution of multinational corporations was crucial. And we knew that they were not paying. Opaque accounting, the use of tax havens, transfer mispricing, and a corporate culture of greed that ignored the costs imposed on society meant that many multinational corporations were not paying their way to developing countries. Our aim was to make sure they did. Country-by-country reporting was and is the answer. It's working. But putting companies that were abusing on the front page of newspapers also helped, and we became quite good at that as well.

And we tackled tax haven abuse. Automatic information exchange from havens is now beginning to happen.

And we demanded data on who owned offshore companies. That's now happening, at least between tax authorities.

And we wanted data on trusts - which is a process also now underway.

Plus we demanded that the loopholes that let the wealthy off tax - from the UK's non-domicile rule onwards - be ended.

And we made clear that tax abuse must be a predicate offence for money laundering, and now pretty much everywhere it is.

So successful has this been that it is now much harder to hide the money corrupt elites steal. That was our aim.

And because 'following the money' is now so much easier something else is also now possible. The wealthy can be made to pay their tax. And not just income taxes. Wealth taxes can be collected as well now, because the money can no longer simply flow to a tax haven and be lost there, out of sight, any more.

I am not saying we've won as yet. But, working with partners - in the UK Oxfam, Christian Aid, Action Aid, Cafod, War on Want and others, including many across Europe - these changes have been delivered with the aim of helping developing countries build the post-aid world where they can collect what is due to them. And where they can beat large scale corruption. That's the great news.

But then some in the world began to notice a problem. This was that developing countries might gain, but the wealthy of the world would have to pay.

The tax haven that helped corruption was the same tax haven that hid the wealth of the global elite.

The transparency that ensured developing countries got their tax made sure that the CEO could not get their bonus by buying some tax abuse to inflate profits.

The opening up of secret companies and trusts has meant tax will be paid where it has not been before.

And now the backlash is beginning.

Oxfam is a victim of that. Of course it has made mistakes. But they do not justify the attack on it. That attack is in reality global wealth fighting back. The truth is that development agencies have been fighting the kleptocrats that Rod Liddle in The Times says cause poverty. The trouble is the techniques they use are the same ones that the wealthy use to avoid tax, and so perpetuate poverty. And when the wealthy find their interests and those of the kleptocrat coincide they're on the side of the kleptocrat.

Aid agencies have fought for tax and transparency as the means to build a post-aid world. And now wealth is fighting back. I guess we should have anticipated it. But the fight has to go on. Tax justice demands it.

We’re #2!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/02/2018 - 12:00am in

US-2

According to the Tax Justice Network, the United States ranks second in the 2018 Financial Secrecy Index. This is based on a secrecy score of 59.8, which is practically unchanged from 2015. The only country ahead of the United States is Switzerland, with a secrecy score of 76. The rise of the United States continues a long-term trend, as the country was one of the few to increase their secrecy score in the 2015 index.

US-1

The continued rise of the United States in the 2018 index comes on the back of a significant change in the U.S. share of the global market for offshore financial services. Between 2015 and 2018, the United States increased its market share by 14 percent. In total, the United States accounts for 22.3 percent of the global market in offshore financial services.

So, actually, we’re #1!

History

The United States has long been a secrecy jurisdiction or tax haven at the federal level. For example, the 1921 Revenue Act exempted interest income on bank deposits owned by non-US residents, and this was explicitly justified at the time as a measure to a attract (tax-evading) foreign capital to the United States.

Another factor influencing policy makers later on was the Vietnam War, which opened up growing external balance of payments deficits—after a long history of surpluses. The United States increasingly needed foreign loans to finance these deficits and it did so, in significant part, by a attracting the proceeds of tax evasion and other illicit foreign money. Foreigners invested in the United States for many reasons, not least the fact of the U.S. dollar being the global reserve currency—but secrecy and tax-free treatment were also key attractions.

Alongside this history of U.S. federal-level secrecy, individual U.S. states have been hosting the formation of secretive shell companies—especially as several states (such as Delaware, Wyoming, and Nevada) have engaged in a race to the bottom to outbid one other in offering ever more egregious secrecy facilities.

Here is how it works. A wealthy Ukrainian, say, sets up a Delaware shell company using a local company forma on agent. That Delaware agent will provide nominee officers and directors (typically lawyers) to serve as fronts for the real owners, and their details and photocopies of their passports can be made public but that gets you no closer to who the genuine Ukrainian owner of that company is: if the nominees are lawyers they are bound by attorney-client privilege not to reveal the information (if they even have it: the owner of that shell company may be another secretive shell company or trust somewhere else). The company can run millions through its bank account but nobody—whether domestic or foreign law enforcement—can crack through that form of secrecy in any efficient or effective way.

 

The Financial Secrecy Index

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 6:09pm in

Tags 

tax havens

I haven't previously shared this video on the Financial Secrecy Index which was launched a week or so again, but think it rather good and so do so now:

The Financial Secrecy Index is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Coffers Project in which I also play a part at City, University of London.

The line I like best is Alex Cobham,'s suggestion that secrecy jurisdictions are a pervasive threat to human rights. I entirely agree, but as I directed the first iteration of this Index that's  not surprising.

What does delight me though is how this Index has grown in depth and influence. This remains for me an example of why NGO campaigning is vital. The FSI has been vital to the campaign to end tax haven abuse.

The Times is guilty of supporting abuse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/02/2018 - 10:31pm in

I want to ask a simple question. It's this. What would happen if The Times succeeds in its aim so clearly summarised by Rod Liddle in his article for The Times this morning where he says:

Most of the world’s poverty today is occasioned by bad governance and a predatory Third World elite, not by capitalism.

I think the Oxfam staffers know this. I think they know this and it makes them hot. Never give these people any of your money.

(My emphasis added).

What I know, because I have worked with all of the UK's major aid agencies at some time over the last fifteen years, is that Oxfam's thinking is very similar to that of all the rest of them. So what Liddle is saying is that people should not give to development charities. That is because, in his opinion, they represent a left wing plot.

Let's ignore for a moment that Liddle clearly does not know what poverty is, or where it is. How  and why he thinks UK poverty might be created by caused by bad governance and a predatory third world elite is hard to imagine unless (and I suspect this is true) he denies there is any poverty in the UK, despite all the evidence.

Why he also thinks our development agencies only work in what he calls the third world is also hard to explain. Oxfam, for example, also works on poverty in the UK.

But let's get to the more fundamental questions. What does he think might happen if charities set up to tackle poverty are not allowed to ask why those in poverty are poor? Might it just be that the poverty might be perpetuated? Is that what he wants?

And what does he think might happen if, because there was a risk that some might abuse, all humanitarian intervention in crisis situations was stopped? Might people die? Is that what he wants?

And does he really think the world would have been a better place without the work development agencies have done, including the lobbying that has, for example, resulted in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and country-by-country reporting that are designed to hold the world's multinational corporations to account when no one else has been able to make that demand? Might it be that bad governance to enhance the wealth of an elite might be rampant? Is that what he wants?

And does he think that apartheid would have ended without the support of organisations like these? Would he wish that voices for change be silenced?

And what of the substantial sums that are spent on good governance projects?  Would they happen without civil society pressure to support those within so many countries he want to beat the corruption that is endemic within them? Does he really think that?

Bringing matters remarkably close to my work, does he really think that tax havens would have been challenged in the way that they have been to stop the abuse by a predatory elite (wherever they might be based) but for support of these NGOs for this work?

The simple fact is that if The Times and Rod Liddle got their way the  available systems to react to humanitarian crises would collapse.

And development aid would pretty much come to an end.

Whilst pressure on tax havens would dissipate.

And campaigns for better governance in the public and private sectors that are critical to the ending of abuse in both would be pretty much stopped in their tracks.

Whilst tax havens would flourish again as the world turned its attention away from them.

With the consequence that kleptocracy would multiply, unimpeded.

And the world's poorest people would pay the price in a multitude of short and long term ways in countries right around the world.

What a few Oxfam staff did was horribly wrong. They should bear all the consequences for what they did. But utterly unambiguously Oxfam, and the other UK aid agencies, need our continuing support if the type of abuse of ninety nine percent of the world's population that The Times is apparently so keen to support is to be not only be challenged, but stopped.

Of course sexual abuse in all its forms matters. But what The Times is doing is engaging in class warfare under the pretext of exposing a sex scandal that Oxfam has already reported. Without in any way excusing the abuse we have also to name The Times' crime, which is supporting economic abuse of most of the world's population. Oxfam may have made mistakes. But The Times is guilty of supporting the worldwide oppression of people who have a right to live free of the fear that poverty creates.

I have an answer. Never give The Times any of your money.

But more than that: name them as the enemies of well-being that they are.

The UK can change the law in its tax havens to meet EU requirements. So why isn’t it doing so?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/02/2018 - 6:42pm in

As the Guardian reports this morning:

The government has come under cross-party pressure to explain why it gave permission for Bermuda to repeal same-sex marriage rights, after the British territory became the first place in the world to make such a move.

The legislation, decided by the island’s elected government, was signed into law on Wednesday by its governor, the British diplomat John Rankin. It replaces the right of same-sex couples to marry, introduced after a supreme court ruling last year along with domestic partnerships, available for all couples.

I would hope most readers would presume that I am appalled by this decision, having said which I hope I will be forgiven for considering its non-LGBQT consequences.

As the Guardian also notes:

Labour MP Chris Bryant secured an urgent question in the House of Commons to ask why the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, approved the move.

Harriet Baldwin, the junior foreign office minister sent to deal with the question, said the government was “obviously disappointed” with the repeal of the law but felt it had no choice.

She said: “After full and careful consideration in regard to Bermuda’s constitutional and international obligations, the secretary of state decided that in these circumstances it would not be appropriate to use this power to block legislation, which can only be used where there is a legal or constitutional basis for doing so, and even only in exceptional circumstances.”

Perhaps as importantly they noted that the minister added:

The new civil partnership law met European human rights standards, Baldwin said, telling MPs that ministers had limited powers over Britishoverseas territories, which were “separate, self-governing jurisdictions with their own democratically elected representatives that have the right to self-government”.

Unpacking that reveals a number of very obvious and sometimes contradictory statements.

The first is that these places are independent but their law requires U.K. approval.

The second  is that we do not legislate for them unless we think we should, which is when we consider the situation exceptional.

Third, non-compliance with EU standards would be considered exceptional.

I think that a fair summary. The basic rule is self government subject to the U.K. having the right to intervene if good order, the break down of good governance or issues of foreign affairs requires it.

I would argue that in the matter being considered good order required intervention, but that is not my main point, which is that the EU has now either black listed, or is threatening to black list, many of these jurisdictions for failing to comply with its tax requirements, which failure does in every case relate to international tax, and so foreign affairs. The EU Parliament is now going to investigate the matter. And what the minister’s comments make abundantly clear is that the U.K. has the right to intervene in such situations. Indeed, it appears duty bound to do so.

In which case it has to be asked why the U.K. is not intervening to require a change in the tax law of these places, whether voluntarily or by imposition.

The EU may wish to ask U.K. ministers to explain themselves.

The EU is to investigate the UK’s tax havens. It should start by asking why the UK subsidises the Isle of Man to sell tax abuse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/02/2018 - 5:20pm in

Tags 

Europe, tax havens

As the Guardian reported late yesterday:

The European parliament has voted to launch an inquiry into financial crime, tax evasion and tax avoidance, saying the Paradise Papers had revealed the “unfinished work” needed to secure fair taxation.

A special committee of 45 MEPs, provisionally entitled Taxe 3 in its terms of reference, will spend a year investigating issues including those raised in the leak of data from the offshore law firm Appleby.

A key focus for the inquiry will be the use of offshore tax havens to save on VAT. The leak exposed how the Isle of Man had issued £790m in VAT refunds to the owners of 231 private jets.

The Taxe 3 inquiry marks a further threat from the EU to the UK’s network of offshore tax havens following the EU referendum. The terms of reference specifically promise that “particular attention shall be given to the crown dependencies and overseas territories”.

I sincerely hope I get a chance to report to this committee. As I noted last November:

The reality is that it still appears to be true that the UK is subsiding the Isle of Man to be a tax haven. My estimate that the current subsidy may be more than £70 million a year. The scale is not as big as it was, but it's still serious. As ever some data helps explain the conclusion.

All the data referred to in what follows is summarised in this one table:

UK GDP data is from HM Treasury and VAT revenue from budget data. Similarly, Isle of Man data for GDP and revenue comes from Isle of Man government published sources. The first two columns compare these ratios at face value. The Isle of Man now seems to collect less VAT as a ratio to GDP than the UK, which is a complete reversal of the situation observed a decade ago, and so it would appear that all is now OK with the world, and that the shortfall might be explained, logically, by the higher level of supply of financial services in the Isle of Man economy, with these sales being considered exempt for the purposes of VAT.

Experience has, however, taught me not to take numbers at face value. I thought I'd rummage a little deeper because what we now know is that GDP is a notoriously unreliable indicator of national income in a tax haven, as Ireland has proved. As we now know the real economy there is vastly lower than the GDP figures imply. So I looked into the Isle of Man's GDP and found this (page 8, here):

Sixty two per cent of the Isle of Man's GDP is corporate profits. For comparison the UK equivalent data (from table D in the PDF download here) is 21%. To put it another way, 41% of Isle of Man GDP is made up of corporate profits that flow through the place, but which do not stick there (of course), which do not represent sales arising or value added in the island. Knock this out and the result is a much better indication of what really actually happens in the island on real economic activity that might happen there, which is, of course, the basis on which VAT can be recovered because VAT relates to sales, not corporate profit flows. And when this is done then it is readily apparent that the rate of VAT attributed to the Isle of Man is still way over the odds when it comes to the VAT common purse. It is collecting nearly 9% of GDP in VAT whilst the UK, which has an identical VAT system, collects just over 6%.

The result is obvious: we are still paying the Isle of Man to be a tax haven. The subsidy is now likely to exceed £70 million a year.

And in case you are wondering where all the profits come from, page 6 of the Isle of Man data already noted explains this.

Let's be quite clear that the egaming earnings of the Isle of Man are not domestic. It's a pretty bleak place, but the whole island does not egame constantly as a consequence.  Nor are 15% insurance or 8% banking  or 9% other finance sectors mainly domestic either (and all are VAT free, of course). Finance makes up about 10% of UK GDP (give or take). Add these together and they are 51% of GDP. If 10% out of that total is domestic I'd be surprised. The rest is excess profit flows having nothing to do with domestic activity. That's 41% to eliminate then - or exactly the difference in profit rates, noted above, corroborated in a different way.

The evidence is clear: current rules are still letting the Isle of Man get away with VAT claims against the UK which seem excessive. I am aware that the situation has been under review, but the reality is that it's now clear that nothing has yet stopped the VAT subsidy to the Isle of Man to be a tax haven. It's time it was made clear that this has ended, for good.

I suggest that the time has come for the EU to investigate this issue on which I have campaigned for well over a decade. I hope to play a part by supplying evidence.

Another Empty Promise from May: ‘I’m Getting What the British Public Wants from Brexit’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/02/2018 - 11:14pm in

Another vapid, empty piece of spin from Tweezer. I heard this today on the breakfast news, and really couldn’t let it go.

Over the past few days, May has been running around trying to negotiate trade deals with the Chinese. When asked about the negotiations to leave the EU, May responded ‘I’m getting what the British public want from Brexit’.

It’s a bald lie. For a start, a large part of the British population didn’t vote ‘Leave’. The majority of Scots and Ulster people voted to remain. It’s only the English that voted to leave the EU. And an increasing number of them have changed their minds, so there’s growing support for a second referendum to be taken on this issue.

And May’s own party is hopelessly divided on the issue. Mike has put up articles on the coterie of Hard Brexiteers that has coalesced around various cabinet members and leading Tories, including Young Master Rees-Mogg. For them, it’s not so much what the public wants that’s important, as what’s important to them and their donors and supporters as managers and senior executives in the financial sector. They’d like to turn Britain into another tax haven just outside the Eurozone, as this would benefit the banking industry. Never mind the damage that it would do to manufacturing, or the immense poverty that would be inflicted on the ordinary working people of the UK as they repeal even more workers’ rights and destroy the very last remnants of the Health Service and welfare state. Just so long as those bankers’ bonuses keep rolling in, and there are nice, fat dividends for the shareholders.

And the Tory party, and particularly May, has always been extremely vague about what kind of Brexit deal they would strike. Remember a few years ago when May was mechanically intoning ‘Brexit means Brexit’ at every speech and interview, all the while glaring at her interlocutors as if it was them, not her, who was unbelievably stupid, simply for asking the question. She had nothing to offer, and could make absolutely no promises. But like Maggie Thatcher, her response to a difficult, reasonable question she couldn’t answer was to go on the offensive and try to make the other person look stupid. I can remember how Maggie replied with the highly considered, detailed response ‘Oh, you stupid man!’ after one journalist dared to ask her a question she couldn’t answer. ‘Brexit means Brexit’ was a response in a similar vein, though without Thatcher’s ad hominem abuse.

Then there are the jokes Merkel has been making at Tweezer’s expense. I blogged yesterday, following Mike, about the way Frau Kanzlerin has been joking about the circular nature of negotiations. May will say to her, ‘Make me an offer’. Merkel will respond, ‘We don’t have to. You’re leaving.’ At which May will repeat, vacuously, her appeal. ‘Make me an offer’. It’s less a business negotiation between equals as May begging for some kind of deal, no matter how bad.

And it shows that the one thing that May is definitely not getting is what the public wants from Brexit.

But all we’re getting from her and the rest of the Tories is more lies and spin to try and deceive us into believing it’s so.

The EU is right to be worried about tax haven UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/02/2018 - 6:38pm in

The FT reports this morning that:

The EU is threatening sanctions to stop Britain undercutting the continent’s economy after Brexit, including “tax blacklists” and penalties against state-subsidised companies, according to a leaked strategy paper.

The measures, outlined in a presentation to EU27 member states last week, show the bloc wants unprecedented safeguards after the UK leaves to preserve a “level playing field” and counter the “clear risks” of Britain slashing taxes or relaxing regulation.

The question is, do they have reason to be concerned? The new Financial Secrecy Index report on the UK suggests that they do.

Firstly, that report and the EU both view the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories as being part of the UK for the purposes of assessing tax abuse risk. That is appropriate. Tax risk of the sort worried about always involves the shifting of profit between states. In other words, it’s an issue relating to foreign affairs. And the UK is responsible for the foreign affairs of its territories.

Second, these places are more than willing to trade on their UK links and the fact that their legal systems are ultimately bedded in that of the UK, which represents much of their appeal.

Third, the UK can enforce law in these jurisdictions and chooses not to do so.

Instead, fourth, it defends their right to have the secrecy laws that permit abuse.

And they do provide that secrecy. This is the TJN summary of its findings for all the jurisdictions in question:

And this, to illuminate what that means, is the finding for the UK itself:

The UK is a very long way from being a place that can be relied upon by anyone when it comes to tackling tax abuse. The EU is absolutely right to be concerned. And so should we be, come to that. This abuse happens at cost to the people of the UK as a whole.

Merkel Claims May Begs Her to ‘Make Me an Offer’

Remember when the Tories were trying to convince everyone that Tweezer was ‘strong and stable’, and could be trusted to get us a good deal on Brexit? Oh, how times have changed!

Mike put up a story yesterday, reporting that the German Chancellor has been making jokes at our PM’s expense about her negotiating style. According to die Kanzlerin, all the negotiations between her and May go round in circles, with both of them saying exactly the same things. May will say, ‘Make me an offer.’ Merkel will reply, ‘We don’t have to. You’re leaving.’ At which point May will repeat her first request. Merkel then repeats her reply, and the conversation goes on, round and round in circles.

See Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/01/30/brexit-make-me-an-offer-says-may-but-nobody-wants-to-talk-with-her/

Now before we go any further, it needs to be said that domestically Merkel is in a precarious position. She’s hung on to power, but her decision to welcome the wave of Middle Eastern refugees from Syria and North Africa a few years ago has damaged her popularity, and boosted that of the Nazi AfD. I also gather that there are problems about whether or not the SPD will join her grosse Koalition. They joined a coalition with her before, only to find their share of the vote declining as Merkel’s Conservative Christian Democrats took the credit for genuine improvements in the benefits system, which had actually been done by the SPD. The pressure’s on Merkelt to make herself look strong for the voters in Germany.

But this actually shows how weak May is. If this is right, then it shows how May actually doesn’t have anything to negotiate with. As we’re leaving the EU, they don’t actually have to make any concessions to us whatsoever. But the country needs them to, as does May personally. And so her remark to Merkel, ‘Make me an offer’, sounds less like an invitation by a skilled business negotiator in a Hollywood drama to productive talks than begging by a desperate and embattled PM. It also seems to show that May can’t talk, except in clichés she’s learned from the movies. Or had programmed into her by her handlers at Tory Central Office. But the cliché, coming as it does from Hollywood, is there to convince someone that actually she’s a tough negotiator. Perhaps she’s trying to persuade Merkel that she’s going to be able to make an offer Merkel can’t refuse. In which case, she and the Tory hordes behind her are very, very sadly deluded.

May needs an offer, any offer, even if it’s one she has no option but to reject, in order to show the Tory faithful and the voting public that she is able to negotiate any kind of settlement at all. And Merkel is determined to show her the opposite: that she’s in absolutely no position to demand anything.

Thus the Brexiteers, far from leading Britain back into a resurgence of pride and sovereignty, as people like Jacob Rees-Mogg would have us all believe, have actually done the opposite. Repeated studies have shown that Brexit will damage our economy, and the process has left the Prime Minister suppliant and begging before Merkel and the other leaders of the EU.

So much for ‘strong and stable’.

Not that Young Master Rees-Mogg is upset. Mogg makes his money, or a fair part of it, from investments, and so hopes that by going outside the EU and turning Britain into a low tax, low regulated economy just outside the EU, they can make Britain into a colossal tax haven for the global financial industry. No matter that the rest of the British economy, such as manufacturing, and its working people, have already suffered because of the Thatcherite promotion of the financial sector. Mogg’s a true blue, Tory aristocrat, who has consistently voted to give him and his class generous financial rewards, while cutting welfare for the poor, the disabled and working class. This shows his priorities, and those of the Hard Brexiteers that stand behind him. Whatever deal he wants to negotiate will very definitely not benefit anyone, who isn’t a millionaire investment banker.

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