Scandal in Frankfurt: tax avoidance pays dividends for German banks

Last Thursday’s FT carried an intriguing story about a German tax avoidance scheme with €billions at stake: the so-called “cum-cum” dividend-stripping device. While we generally think of the Germans as highly disciplined, this looked like an example of complete chaos. And the aggressive artificiality of the scheme took me back to the dark ages of … More Scandal in Frankfurt: tax avoidance pays dividends for German banks

Raisins or cherries, the message remains the same

Angela Merkel warned last week against British cherry–picking on Brexit. Or rather, she warned against “Rosinenpickerei”, which literally means raisin-picking. But this is hardly news. On 28 June, 5 days after the referendum, Merkel first included such a warning in a speech to the Bundestag, immediately before the European Council meeting and the first informal … More Raisins or cherries, the message remains the same

Smoke and mirrors don’t fill the deficit

Once upon a time, in a pre-Brexit, pre-Trump world, a conservative government unexpectedly won an election. One of their key priorities was to eliminate the deficit, and in the Budget immediately following the election they came up with a way to “raise” a few £billions by what amounted to an accounting trick. They decided to … More Smoke and mirrors don’t fill the deficit

Testing times for the civil service: some rules of engagement for the Brexit departments

On top of the pressures of defining what “Brexit means Brexit” might mean and starting to map out the UK’s new place in the world, there are signs that engagement between the Brexit departments – Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) and Department for International Trade (DIT) – and business has not got off to … More Testing times for the civil service: some rules of engagement for the Brexit departments

Solidarność! Why I went to Harlow on 3 September 2016.

My first encounter with the Polish community was around the age of 8 or 9, when I shared my primary-school desk (one of those old-fashioned affairs, big enough for two and with holes for ink-pots) with a Polish boy called Jon Mikes. Contact with people from central or eastern Europe was unusual then – the … More Solidarność! Why I went to Harlow on 3 September 2016.

Philip Hammond should shelve Osborne’s plan to cut corporation tax

In the wake of Brexit, George Osborne planned to “woo business” by reducing corporation tax – already heading for 17 per cent, the lowest rate in the G20, by 2020 – to less than 15 per cent. Will Philip Hammond, the new Chancellor, now follow through this plan, and would this be a step towards making … More Philip Hammond should shelve Osborne’s plan to cut corporation tax

Referendum Eve

This is the second vote on Britain’s membership of Europe in my lifetime (and yes I know the Leave brigade will quibble that this isn’t about “Europe” the continent but the EEC/EU but the tenor of the debate shows it’s about something much deeper than that). I can’t pretend to recall the eve of the … More Referendum Eve