Last week, the so-called Paradise Papers shed light on the extent to which offshore dealings by high profile companies and personalities is draining the UK from legitimate tax revenue. From the royal family (lolz) to Lewis Hamilton, Facebook and Trump advisers (admittedly somewhat less surprising) the leaks confirm the evidence raised by last year’s Panama papers about the existence of a global and unchallenged network of tax avoidance.
It also confirms what many have known for a while. The UK isn’t overrun by benefit-sucking immigrants draining the economic life out of the country. To question the positive contribution of immigration in 2017 is as intellectually stimulating as a debate over climate change. We’re not running out of space and, crucially, we shouldn’t be running out of fund.
But we are. We’re running out because of a government ideologically committed to squeezing the welfare state to death at the expense of the poorest, whilst presiding over the shady dealings of, let’s face it, its own 1% funders.
A recent study found that rich Britons have put away nearly £300bn (yep, billion) in tax havens. This is around 15% of national GDP. When converted to 2017 political currency, this amounts to a staggering £350m a week for the next 16 years. Since many havens are British overseas territories such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, Britain is a key cog in international evasions and also preventing other countries from sustaining a fair tax system.
Meanwhile, the national narrative from the press has focused on austerity as a solution to the crisis sparked by an economically illiterate Labour government (who knew Gordon Brown could single handedly sink global financial markets, eh?). That is, even though national debt has skyrocketed since Tories came into power in 2010. Less spending yet more debts? Where on earth could the money have gone?
Then of course, we have the consequence. Brexit: the irrational cry fueled by the eternal immigration myth, disguised as a noble quest for sovereignty and peppered with just the right amount of post-imperialist, xenophobic nostalgia. Brexit, the Boris Johnson, Times newspaper-led anti-establishment crusade. Go figure.
Brexit, the referendum on shutting the world out at a time when, clearly, our most challenging problems including tax evasion require more global alignment not less. As much as some might hope, this can’t be addressed from the town hall of a little village in Kent.
This leaves us with two key question. 1) Does this government think we’re stupid? The evidence is unequivocal, as the Tory party has longed stopped pretending it is the majority’s champion and now carries out its nasty affairs in a relatively open way.
2) More disturbingly, are they right to think so? Judging by the muted public reaction to the latest findings, you’d have a tough time disagreeing.