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Schadenfreude: tax havens are part of business life, so lay off Juncker

Luxembourg is a tax haven. Everybody knows. If you want it to be a success you positively encourage corporations to make it their tax HQ. So did Jean Claude Juncker, currently European Commission President, when he was Luxembourg Finance, later Prime Minister. So did Ireland. Juncker would have been negligent if he had not done so, writes Schadenfreude, our secret columnist in Brussels.

Some other countries may not like tax havens – too bad. They are part of business life. The idea that there is a solemn duty to pay all tax due is an invention. Governments often give specific tax breaks to increase their popularity. Mr Juncker did nothing reprehensible or unusual. So lay off.

Governments also like to claim victories, especially against powerful odds. So it was a diplomatic triumph when Britain was able to say that by standing up to the dreaded European Commission it had cut by half the amount of historically unpaid budgetary subscription and arranged for payment by instalments, without interest. In fact the cut was automatic. British Ministers said they had not known if the bill would qualify for the Thatcher rebate of 50% and extracted it as a concession. Pure invention – it was always there for the taking.

All this reminds one of that earlier victory when the UK vetoed the Fiscal Pact. The rest of the European Union adopted it as an intergovernmental agreement. Whether it works is another question.

We are promised soon information about the “new settlement” which the British Prime Minister will negotiate and present to the voters in a referendum. Conceivably Whitehall is gathering up the predictable successes as a precaution in case the upcoming negotiation is to be hailed as another achievement against the odds. Unless the ultimate purpose is to reward Euroscepticism.

Footnote – Please do not ask Schadenfreude to explain what happened in Westminster about the European Arrest Warrant. It seems to have been enacted in some mystic process.

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