UK more and more isolated as Spain backs Robin Hood Tax
Although this is not at all unusual for a European Union proposal, every time a country’s leader or finance minister announces their position on the EU proposal for a financial transactions tax (FTT), there seems to be a frisson around the social networks – and occasionally even the old media – about who’s for and who’s against. The positions of various member states are often spun by both sides (apologies from us!) and the nuances of every announcement are picked over like a soothsayer’s slaughtered chicken. The Irish Prime Minister recently emerged from a Council of the Isles meeting to announce that the previously little-remarked Dublin financial markets could suffer if an FTT did not cover the UK, and he was therefore against the idea (Irish trade unionists have remarked that he apparently isn’t bothered about the rest of the Irish economy suffering, but there you go…) But conversely, yesterday the Spanish Prime Minister, the newly elected right-wing successor to the FTT-supporting socialist government, emerged from a meeting with French President Sarkozy to announce his firm support for an FTT. So….
At the moment, the supporters of an FTT include four of the five biggest economies in the EU – France, Germany, Italy (Mario Monti has replaced Berlusconi’s generally sceptical position to one of clear support: he is reported to have studied under James Tobin) and Spain. Only the UK stands out from this group, and the UK Governmet’s claim that this is because the finance sector is so important to Britain looks less and less convincing given the combined weight of the financial sectors in the next four biggest markets (though the City of London is, to be fair, still bigger than the other four combined). France, Germany and Spain are all controlled by centre-right governments belonging to the EPP, which is the largest bloc in the European Parliament (ahead of the Socialists and Democrats, also supporting an FTT) – but this group is the one David Cameron led the Conservative Party out of, a move that underpins the UK’s isolation in Europe.
Other long-term supporters of the tax include the Austrian government, Luxemburg converted to support fairly recently, and the new Belgian government is now re-confirmed as supportive despite a wobble when there wasn’t a Government there at all. The Danish Government is still in an interesting place, as they say! The Social Democrats and Socialists who form the majority of the coalition are supportive, but the Finance Minister comes from the hostile Social Liberals, and at present she holds the whip hand> However, her recent outspoken attacks on the tax have weakened her position inside the Danish Government, so change is still possible, especially as the tax gets closer to actual implementation. The Dutch are also in an ambiguous position, with the finance sector fighting back strongly against the Government’s support for an FTT. And the Czech Republic, Maltese and Swedes are still opposed.
As each new twist and turn in the announcement of positions – and the intricate detail of each pronouncement – is pored over, there will be ups and downs for the Robin Hood Tax campaign and its supporters. Electoral timetables, brinkmanship, bargaining positions all come into play, and it is important that supporters of the tax hold their nerve whenever a statement seems to go the wrong way. But as campaigners gather in London this week to map out this year’s campaign, it seems more and more clear that this year the Robin Hood Tax will turn from a campaign into law.