Why some direct EU taxes would be a good idea


by Rumbold
9th August, 2010 at 9:55 pm    

For those who oppose the deepening of the EU state, the idea of that body directly taxing European citizens should be anathema. It would take power from national governments, who are seen to have a mandate from the voters, and give it to the EU, where an essentially unelected and opaque body holds sway. This is what the EU’s Budget Commissioner is proposing, and it is unsurprising that the call has elucidated a storm of protest:

Taxes on aviation, financial transactions and CO2 emission permits are all possibilities, he told the daily Financial Times Deutschland.

However, the UK promptly rejected the idea.

Despite the headline implications though, this could potentially benefit those who wish to see the EU trimmed and focused more on the goal of providing a single market with freedom of movement, goods and services.

The EU state has massively deepened (and expanded) in the last thirty years. It has extended its control into employment, health, law, defence, justice, foreign policy and any other number of areas. When the European Constitution was originally rejected, the EU merely introduced the bits it wanted anyway, changed the name of the rest of it and got it reintroduced. Labour and the Liberal Democrats promised to support a referendum in their manifesto, reneged on the deal, yet were not punished for it electorally. Lacking any mandate from voters, the EU has nonetheless multiplied its power and influence many times over. How? Because the ordinary voter just doesn’t care enough.

The percentage of British laws that come from the EU is estimated to range from around 10-80%. The fact we can’t get a reasonable estimate is damning enough, but for argument’s sake, let’s call it 20%. A body that makes 20% of our laws should be permanently in the public gaze, especially as it can currently overrule UK rulings and law. Yet how often do you see EU policy making headlines on the BBC, or debated on Newsnight? That is not to say that there is some Europhile media conspiracy. The Eurosceptic press concerns themselves with tales of the supposed criminalisation of egg merchants for using incorrect labels. This reduces the EU to the status of a pantomime villain. How many voters who can explain the British political process can explain the EU one?

So why would direct EU taxes be a good idea then? You only have to look at the anger that followed the domestic expenses scandal to see that voters see taxes as ‘their money’ if they think it is being squandered and it has come directly from them. The removed nature of the EU does not create this feeling for most at present. EU taxes should make voters care more about the EU, and pay more attention to how the money is being spent. This hopefully would encourage more media interest in the actual EU apparatus, increasing understanding and thus creating a virtuous circle. There would be more pressure for good governance, something which should please Euro-sceptics and -philes alike.


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  1. sunny hundal

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  2. Jonathan Fryer

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  3. Joe Jordan

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  4. Roger Thornhill

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  6. Business Fun

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  7. manishta sunnia

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Why some direct EU taxes would be a good idea http://bit.ly/bo4ZOA




  1. Sunny — on 10th August, 2010 at 12:25 am  

    A body that makes 20% of our laws should be permanently in the public gaze, especially as it can currently overrule UK rulings and law. Yet how often do you see EU policy making headlines on the BBC, or debated on Newsnight?

    Actually a lot of people keep an eye on what’s going on there – it’s just that the debate in the UK is overwhelmingly through ‘the EU wants to ban our bananas’ articles.

    Look at the way they forced reduced prices on airlines, on mobile phone charges, easier trade via countries etc etc.

    There’s a video somewhere on YouTube called ‘What have the Europeans ever done for us’. You sound like one of those guys Rumbold ;-)

  2. Freeborn John — on 10th August, 2010 at 1:16 am  

    You sound like a euro-federalist Rumbolt trying to justify yet more powers for Brussels. We don’t want euro government and we don’t want euro-taxes. We need to cut the EU down to size and that includes reducing its budget.

  3. boyo — on 10th August, 2010 at 8:18 am  

    Guilty of wanting to have cake and eat it R.

    To paraphrase WC, for all its faults the EU curently appears the most benign form of government in this largely malign world of ours. With the excpetion of genuine freedom of services (a personal bug bear) i would suggest it has reached its goldilocks moment or thereabouts, current economic woes notwithstanding.

  4. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2010 at 8:26 am  

    Sunny:

    Actually a lot of people keep an eye on what’s going on there – it’s just that the debate in the UK is overwhelmingly through ‘the EU wants to ban our bananas’ articles.

    Do they though Sunny? How many commissioners can you name. How is an EU law gestated? What is the percentage of the EU budget cotnributed by the UK? Can you answer these without looking them up?

    There’s a video somewhere on YouTube called ‘What have the Europeans ever done for us’. You sound like one of those guys Rumbold

    Heh.

    Look at the way they forced reduced prices on airlines, on mobile phone charges, easier trade via countries etc etc.

    I though environmentalists would want planes to charge more. As for the other two, neither requires an EU spuerstate to function. Nor do I think that reducing people’s mobile phones bills justifies a massive expansion of unaccoutnable state power into our lives.

  5. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2010 at 8:29 am  

    Freeborn John:

    You sound like a euro-federalist Rumbolt trying to justify yet more powers for Brussels. We don’t want euro government and we don’t want euro-taxes. We need to cut the EU down to size and that includes reducing its budget.

    The EU has massively expanded as a state, despite having no direct taxation. This situation will continue as not enough people will care enough. At least with a few direct taxes the link might be established in people’s minds between the EU and the tax they pay. No taxation without representation.

    Boyo:

    Why do we need an EU political apparatus, when we have the nation state?

  6. MaidMarian — on 10th August, 2010 at 9:10 am  

    Rumbold – First thing, why we need the EU apparatus, try Alan S Milward’s ‘The European Rescue of the Nation State.’

    More generally, can I perhaps put this another way.

    Sure, the EU is far from a model of DIRECT democracy and it would also be nice to have it do less (though you might want to mention ‘gold-plating’ which the UK has been especially guilty of. That is also where the difference between 10% and 80% comes from).

    That however does not mean that there is anything wrong as such with it taxing and spending. The problem is more what it spends it on. Agriculture, as in 1950 dominates the EU – there is no need for a common policy on agriculture, end of. However Euro-level coordination of, say, transport infrastructure would be reasonable for me. I think that there is an argument for pollution standards to be EU level.

    The really contentious one would be foreign policy. Everyone seems to jump up and down about an EU foreign policy yet has no problem with UN weapons inspectors making decisions about war or NATO action in Yugoslavia. Personally I can’t see what would be so bad about an ‘EU NATO.’

    I would also add that I think that the Lisbon Treaty was the endpoint of deepening Euro integration, there won’t be another treaty.

  7. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2010 at 9:41 am  

    MaidMarian:

    The problem with the EU is not so much to do with individual policies (which, as you say, may be good or bad), but the whole structure of it. It lacks any mandate, cannot really be held to account and can expand as much as it wants to.

    There will never be another treaty. That is correct, as the Lisbon Constitution contained an amendment clause which meant that there never would need to be another treaty, as the EU can now introduce anything it wants.

  8. MaidMarian — on 10th August, 2010 at 9:50 am  

    Rumbold – The EU is made up of Member States, the member states agree to a treaty (the EU does not have a constitution like the US), it does not expand per se. ‘The EU’ is what its members say it is. It does not have a DIRECT mandate, sure and accountability is a real problem. Worse, it allows national governments to hide their failures behind the EU – see rural payments for a good example.

    By the ‘Lisbon Constitution’ I assume you mean the Lisbon Treaty? There is a difference. Article 48 does not give carte blanche to change the treaty – but you know that already don’t you.

  9. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2010 at 10:01 am  

    MaidMarian:

    No treaty/constitution will ever need to be put to the voters again, thanks to clauses in the last one. Yes, the EU was created by member states, and controlled by them to a certain extent, but at its core is a organsiation of true believers who have gone native. There are no real checks on it.

  10. boyo — on 10th August, 2010 at 1:12 pm  

    Rumbold. The nation state is ok but i think for 21 cent the EU is better. It attempts to mitigate against the interests of the poweful over the weak and aspires to constrain the worst excesses and impact of capitalism which presumably you interpret as red tape. It delivers free skies, movement and settlement of labour, etc, alongside considerable economic benefits, which are of course disputed but how replacing freedoms with barriers by little englanders will save money i dont know (please dont mention norway – an oil rich state with a tiny population which has to apply eu rules as the price of its agreement with none of the influence).

    In a world of increasingly powerful and totalitarian blocs which punch their weight at the WTO, i’d rather be in than out.

  11. boyo — on 10th August, 2010 at 1:19 pm  

    As for democracy, btw, dont make me laugh…. Our ‘nation state’ is currently being subject to the most right wing policies ever, implemented by a government with no electoral mandate which one day can say there will be no more top down reforms of the nhs and the next implement the greatest changes in 50 years the BMA labelled as ‘madness’.

  12. Nosemonkey — on 10th August, 2010 at 7:35 pm  

    Rumbold – as someone who can name a bunch of commissioners, tell you how much the UK’s contribution to the EU budget is (both gross and net), and explain how EU laws come about (as well as why you’re wrong about the Lisbon Treaty meaning no future treaties will be necessary), I’m intrigued by this question more than any other:

    What do you think the EU’s purpose is?

    Because from your post and comments, this isn’t entirely clear – but until you answer that question, the degree of democracy (and taxation) that should be included in the project remains impossible to debate.

    (Note: “What is the EU for?” is the single most contentious question about the organisation, and has been for decades. There is no one answer, and it is the fundamental source of all the disputes about the EU’s power pretty much ever. Some think it should just be an economic organisation, others that it should primariy be social, some that it should hold governments to account, others that it should try to forge a unified polity. From the texts of the treaties it is all of these things and none.)

  13. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2010 at 9:41 pm  

    Boyo:

    As far as I can tell, the current government has a fairly substantial mandate. The most right wing politics ever? Raising capital gains tax, increasing income tax thresholds for the poorest, trying to reduce the welfare trap and strengthening civil liberties? Sounds okay to me.

    Nosemonkey:

    What do you think the EU’s purpose is?

    I think that its current purpose is deepening itself by gaining as much control over things as it can. What it should be for though is as a framework for a single market, with freedom of movement, goods and services. Everything else should be left up to national states, who can then work together on issues of their choosing. Also, I don’t think we should have any trade barriers, even if non-EU countries choose not to follow our example. Let their consumers pay more.

    As well as why you’re wrong about the Lisbon Treaty meaning no future treaties will be necessary

    I though that it contained a clause which meant no treaty would ever be needed again. However, given your deep understanding of the EU, I am more than willing to concede that I am wrong (though I would like more explanation, thank you).

  14. Shamit — on 10th August, 2010 at 10:56 pm  

    “What it should be for though is as a framework for a single market, with freedom of movement, goods and services. Everything else should be left up to national states, who can then work together on issues of their choosing. “

    Rumbold.

    Spot on.

    In fact that is my position as well. Europe should exist as a free trade, open border group of nations that work like NAFTA or ASEAN. However, the fully open border concept is only in Europe.

    Some basic framework that enables such an association that works are required, however when power entrusted in parliament which the following parliament cannot reverse are put in force – its becoming a superstate.

    Only a legitimate government can levy taxes – that is the one the very few remaining key barriers between the European Super State and the Association of Nation States that are left today.

    Empowering the European Parliament to levy and European Commission to collect those taxes would in effect accept an European Super State.

    I think Germany and the UK both have called correctly on this and it should be opposed. There is no way giving EU tax levying powers enhance democracy or democratic accountability.

    This must not be allowed to go through.

  15. MaidMarian — on 10th August, 2010 at 11:05 pm  

    Rumbold – ‘I think that its current purpose is deepening itself by gaining as much control over things as it can.’

    You have convinced yourself that there is this vast plot haven’t you? Saying it over and over again though doesn’t make it true. Member states tell the EU what it can do via treaty. Hence it is not a constitution.

    I think that the UK and others have come at this the right way, but talking in terms of some great plot is OTT.

    Shamit – ‘Some basic framework that enables such an association that works are required, however when power entrusted in parliament which the following parliament cannot reverse are put in force – its becoming a superstate.’

    Governments can withdraw from the EU because it is a treaty, not a constitution. By your rationale utility privatisations would not be allowed as they were specifically designed to be irreversible. Out of interest, given that NATO can use force, do you regard NATO as a superstate?

  16. Nosemonkey — on 11th August, 2010 at 9:46 am  

    Rumbold – I’ll break this into two parts (and may take a bit of time, as I’m a bit busy today…)

    First, on the Lisbon self-amending thing, it’s due to a misunderstanding of Article 48.

    This is designed for very minor amendments (primarily small changes of phrasing to prevent misunderstandings in application, should these arise), and has numerous checks and balances in place. Read it for yourself here: http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-european-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/135-article-48.html

    It’s also very difficult to change the treaty. It would require:

    1) consultation with the Commission and European Parliament (and in some cases the European Central Bank

    2) a majority vote in the European Council

    3) the formation of a Convention to examine the proposed changes

    4) a conference of representatives of the governments of the member states to examine these the Convention’s findings

    5) a “consenus” to be reached (implying unanimity under existing EU working methods)

    6) ratification by all member states according to the requirements of their own national constitutions

    7) if, after 2 years, not all member states have ratified the amendments, they are to be re-assessed

    In addtion, Article 48.6 explicitly states that this “shall not increase the competences conferred on the Union in the Treaties”.

    In other words, Lisbon has a self-amending clause, but not one that could confer more powers on the EU. For this, a new treaty would be required – and under ongoing EU rules, this would still require a unanimous agreement from the member states.

  17. Boyo — on 11th August, 2010 at 1:55 pm  

    Rumbold, thats called “cover”. But you are not interested, and you are certainly not “progressive”!

  18. Rumbold — on 12th August, 2010 at 11:55 am  

    Apologies for the late responses.

    Shamit:

    Thanks. I know you disagree about direct taxes,but for me the EU already operates as a state. We will never hold it to account unless people care more about it, and the best way to do that is to get them to collect tax.

    MaidMarian:

    The problem is you fail to distinguish between member states and the central core. The core, even though they come from member states, has mostly gone native, and therefore is understandably committed to tthe EU state, as opposed to member states.

    Boyo:

    I never know what ‘progressive’ means anyway. I like this coalition so far (even if I disagree with individual policies). I don’t really mind whether that makes me progressive or hard right. What sort of government do you like.

  19. Rumbold — on 12th August, 2010 at 12:02 pm  

    Nosemonkey:

    Thank you for taking the time to explain this. I did read through Article 48, and it did seem as though it was rather vague, as it relied on a lot of ‘consultation’. However, I am happy to admit I misunderstood it at the start. Thank you for correcting me.

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