Anneliese Dodds MEP

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Last weekend’s Bratislava summit showed that other EU leaders’ patience with the UK is running thin. Not every European prime minister went as far as the Slovak Robert Fico, who urged the EU to make sure the UK deal is as painful as possible to send a message to the wider European public: “Listen guys, now you will see why it is important to stay in the EU.” But no member state wants Britain to be seen as coming out of its referendum with a better deal than current EU members already have.

This political context calls for statesmanlike leadership from the British government. Instead we have had the kind of political posturing that would embarrass many student unions. Such an approach will switch off other European countries at the very time when we need them to listen.

Take a fairly fundamental example: in the two years after Article 50 is triggered, is the UK merely negotiating its exit from the EU, or are we simultaneously agreeing the terms of a new EU-UK relationship?  A number of powerful figures in Brussels have forcefully argued that the two negotiations need to happen one after the other: detail of our future relationship cannot be worked out until after we have left the EU.

This is a major concern for the UK.  If leading European figures do not think that the two sets of negotiations should happen in parallel, British government ministers will need to carefully and diplomatically convince them that they should.  Is this what David Davis has done?  No; in his first – and rather vacuous – intervention on Brexit in the House of Commons, Davis dismissed the EU leaders’ view as “somewhat ridiculous”, and said that Article 50 referred to “parallel negotiations”.   That is simply untrue. 

The fact is that the language in Article 50 is open to interpretation and dependent on the goodwill of all parties.  If the Tories want a particular outcome, they are going to need to persuade their EU counterparts of its virtue.  Rather than trying to wish away the problem, a statesmanlike response would be to engage with the European institutions to explain why a parallel negotiation is not just a legitimate interpretation of the Treaty, but more importantly, in the interests of the EU and its remaining member states as well.

No one would gain from the kind of constitutional vacuum that would occur if the UK left the EU without as much clarity over the future relationship as possible. Yet Davis’s dismissive response risks pushing our European colleagues towards that view.

We are seeing the same kind of mistakes being made when it comes to trade.  Davis has consistently presented our relationship with the rest of the EU in zero-sum terms, and even threatened with tariffs those very European producers which we need to stay in the UK. Rather than going on about the fact the UK exports more services than it imports, pretending that this somehow cancels out our dreadful deficit in manufacturing, a more sensible approach would be to underline how a poor deal for British products would harm European exports too. Davis should be, for example, underlining how many German manufacturers are reliant on debt financing provided by the City of London, at the same time as many German firms’ goods are bought by British companies with increasingly international supply chains.

Instead, Davis’s view of trade seems straight out of the 19th century; a world where commerce was largely in raw goods rather than complex products, and where bullyboy tactics could prevail. Indeed, the government’s approach to Brexit seems straight out of a Merchant Ivory film, with Davis and Johnson as rivals for the role of hammy British villain.  In today’s world of advanced manufacturing and sophisticated, internationalised services, this approach is dangerously complacent as well as outdated.

This article originally features in The Times Red Box on 21/09/2016

David Davis should be building bridges, not burning them

Last weekend’s Bratislava summit showed that other EU leaders’ patience with the UK is running thin. Not every European prime minister went as far as the Slovak Robert Fico, who...

Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Basharhwere are two young women from Kocho, a village in Northern Iraq, which was taken over by Daesh in the summer of 2014. Many of their relatives died during the massacre of Kocho, where Daesh rounded up and killed over 100 men from the village. The survivors of this massacre were trafficked, the women and girls were sold into sexual slavery, beaten and raped.

Eventually, both women were able to flee from Daesh. Their journey was very difficult and dangerous. Lamiya’s companions Almas (8) and Katherine (20) were killed by a landmine and Lamiya was heavily injured by the explosion, losing the sight of her right eye.

These two very brave women are now standing up internationally for their community, calling for the recognition of Daesh’s crimes as genocide and for more help for Yazidis. Nadia Murad has asked for European governments, including Britain, to do more to support Yazidis. In her words, “[w]hat IS has done to the Yazidi people is genocide, the UK must offer more asylum to refugees. So many are in camps and they have been through terrible suffering.”

Germany has set up a special programme aiming to help Yazidi women traumatized by sexual slavery. More than 1000 women are receiving psychological treatment in Germany as part of this programme but many traumatised Yazidis still live in appalling conditions in refugee camps in the Kurdish area of Iraq and in Turkey.

It is important to highlight the suffering of the Yazidi minority and other groups in Iraq and this is why I have nominated Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Basharhwere for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The prize is awarded annually by the European Parliament “to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause.” The fact that Basee and Basharhwere are still fighting to help others after such a horrendous experience shows they would be noble recipients of this prestigious prize.

Why I nominated Yazidi survivors of Daesh’s sexual violence for the prestigious Sakharov Prize

Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Basharhwere are two young women from Kocho, a village in Northern Iraq, which was taken over by Daesh in the summer of 2014. Many...

Anneliese Dodds MEP and Clare Moody MEP are organising a roundtable discussion to discuss the impact of Brexit on Science and Technology. 

The event, entitled ‘The Impact of Brexit on Science and Technology’, held in conjunction with Theresa Griffin MEP, will consider both short and long term issues within the science and technology sector. There will be a particular focus on questions surrounding funding for science projects, the involvement of British scientists in European Union funded projects, and university recruitment for both staff and students.

This will be held at Labour Conference on Sunday, 25th of September, from 3:30pm until 5pm, at ACC Hall 2H, Room 2.  The venue is withing the security zone and attendees will need a Conference pass. Refreshments will be available.

Anneliese explained "The Leave campaign promised that UK Science and Technology wouldn’t be harmed by Brexit. It is very important that Labour MEPs and MPs stand together to hold the Leave campaign to their promises, and we must keep up the fight to get the best for Britain during the Brexit negotiations.

"Following our submission of evidence to the Science and Technology select committee, investigating the predicted impact of Brexit on science and technology, my colleague Clare Moody and I are very much looking forward to hosting this discussion at the Labour Party conference, and we are thrilled that Theresa Griffin MEP is able to join us.

 "I have hosted some very successful meetings with experts, educators and South East constituents on this issue, and the opportunity to discuss our submitted evidence, in addition to short and long term issues within the science and technology sectors with national experts and Labour members will too be invaluable. Clare, Theresa and I would love to continue gathering as many ideas as possible on how best to support science and technology during, and post Brexit, and I hope to see many of you there."

To register your attendance, please email contact@anneliesedoddsMEP.uk

The Impact of Brexit on Science & Technology - Event at Labour Conference

Anneliese Dodds MEP and Clare Moody MEP are organising a roundtable discussion to discuss the impact of Brexit on Science and Technology.  The event, entitled ‘The Impact of Brexit on...

The announcement last week from the European Commission that Apple would need to repay €13bn in unpaid tax was momentous. It should serve as a clear warning to multinational companies and national governments alike that we cannot carry with business as usual when it comes to aggressive tax avoidance and evasion.

In my view, and as I said at the time, the announcement was a watershed moment in our fight for tax justice. We had seen a couple of steps in the right direction, with state aid rulings involving Belgian brewer ABInBev and German chemical giant BASF, along with more significant findings against household names such as FIAT and Starbucks. But with Apple, a record ruling involving the most valuable company in world history felt like a game-changer: surely, now, significant changes were going to take place in boardrooms and governments around the world in their attitudes to fair taxation.

But two weeks on, little has changed. Coverage of the ruling has disintegrated into an anecdotal mention at the bottom of news articles promoting the latest advancement to the new iPhone. Gone is the outrage over Apple depriving Ireland of tax revenue equal to their entire annual health budget, replaced by outrage over them depriving consumers of their headphone jack.

Politicians gathered in Hangzhou this week to discuss global economic issues at the G20 summit, and you would expect the largest ever tax ruling and the associated public outrage would have forced tax avoidance and evasion to the top of the agenda. Allowing the world’s largest company to escape with a 0.05% tax rate at a time when people the world over are struggling through deprivation and austerity surely calls for meaningful action. This was an opportunity for the world’s 20 most powerful leaders to show that they understand public anger.

Instead, they offered us a few warm words. The same warm words, it turns out, that they offered us in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The ambition was appallingly low, and can basically be summarised as: “we will all work together to be a bit better”. No concrete action, no powerful statements, no plan.

Although at least the G20 leaders seemed content with the status quo, and offered some lip service about the need for change. Elsewhere, it feels like things are actually going backwards on the tax front. The Irish government have decided that they will challenge the Apple ruling and try by all means to not accept the €13bn in back taxes. And ahead of a crucial EU meeting in Bratislava, the Slovak government - currently heading the European Council - have been briefing out the need to be fairer on multinational companies - as if they’re the ones that are hard done by in all of this!

Some technology commentators have this week speculated that Apple’s sheer market influence can calmly walk through consumer disappointment at having to get wireless headphones, just as they did when they forced loyal customers to throw out their old chargers for a new slim-line port four years ago. But tax avoidance and evasion isn’t a gimmick, it can’t be a temporary outrage - it’s real and it severely affects people’s everyday lives.

We need to see genuine action along the lines that I called for in my European Parliament report almost one year ago. We need companies to report publicly on where they make their profit and where they pay their taxes; we need a blacklist of tax havens; and we need full transparency on who exactly owns what, when it comes to both companies and trusts.  Those are the kind of things that finance ministers should be agreeing to at tomorrow’s meeting of European Finance Ministers – not trying to come up with a tax system that doesn't hurt Apple's feelings.

The Apple tax ruling can’t be brushed off by governments

The announcement last week from the European Commission that Apple would need to repay €13bn in unpaid tax was momentous. It should serve as a clear warning to multinational companies...

On Tuesday, European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager announced a damning indictment of the Irish tax system with a record €13bn fine being issued to Apple for unpaid tax dating back to 1991.

The fee is the highest ever issued in a state aid case and follows similar rulings against Starbucks and FIAT last year, although for a much larger amount.

For those who have been fighting to crack down on aggressive tax avoidance and evasion over a number of years, this is a real victory in trying to level the playing field between multinationals and local businesses.

The Commission announced that under this sweetheart deal arranged 25 years ago, Apple managed to pay an effective tax rate of just one per cent of its profits in 2003. Worse still, this tax rate dropped to a staggering 0.005 per cent of its profits in 2014.

When you compare this to the already low 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate that small and medium sized businesses in Ireland have to pay, it is clear to see why the system is stacked against fair competition.

You would think that the Irish Government would welcome the additional revenue of €13bn euros that will need to be repaid to them following this ruling, but instead they are fighting vigorously against it and continue to claim they have done nothing wrong. It is important to remember that it is the Member State that gets put on trial for breaking state aid rules, even if Apple pay the fine.

We have seen countries offer these sweetheart deals in order to secure a large multinational settling in their borders. By offering a tax rate cheaper than anywhere else, in theory they can secure the jobs, economic boost and additional tax revenue that they would otherwise lose to someone offering an even cheaper deal.

In practice, luring a big company may not lead to the jobs and tax revenue that a country may have hoped for, as Jersey is currently experiencing.  

The United States have also recently been jumping in to defend Apple by claiming that the EU has no right to retroactively tax an American company, as that tax should be claimed by the United States.

They also claim that the EU is disproportionately targeting American companies when trying to shut down these deals. Both of these assertions are incorrect.

The EU is not investigating companies, American or otherwise; they’re investigating the European governments that might have offered them sweetheart tax deals to secure their business.  Those deals have been given to Belgian brewers, German chemical companies and Italian car manufacturers – not just US tech giants.

The Commission has a duty to put pressure on both Member States and multinationals to abide by EU tax and competition law. The relatively small fines issued to FIAT and Starbucks last year served as slap on the wrist to Member States to get their tax agreements in order.

The announcement today will send shock waves through every company and country benefiting from sweetheart deals around Europe.

Today is also an emphatic reminder of what the UK stands to lose by leaving the EU. It is only by working with our allies in Europe that we can close these loopholes and make sure competition is fair across the market.

We must make sure that the UK government continues to cooperate with Europe in a serious way if we are to meaningfully crack down on tax avoidance and evasion both in the UK and around the world.

This blog originally featured in Left Foot Forward on 30/09/2016

Apple Tax: Record €13bn fee can help slam the door on sweetheart deals

On Tuesday, European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager announced a damning indictment of the Irish tax system with a record €13bn fine being issued to Apple for unpaid tax dating...


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