The UK stands accused of blocking EU attempts to place some of its off-shore territories on an EU blacklist of tax havens. Documents leaked to the Green group in Brussels, reveal that ‘one member of the screening panel’ disagreed on the interpretation of the ‘code of conduct’ for third countries – those outside the EU. Disagreement centred on the evaluation criteria used to evaluate 11 jurisdictions including some with strong ties with the UK: Anguilla, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Palau and Vanuatu.
Molly, who is tax justice spokesperson for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, said:
“These leaked documents reveal that one member of the screening panel refused to agree on adding eleven jurisdictions to the EU blacklist of tax havens. Although not named in the leak, it is safe to assume that this member was the UK, given the fact that these 11 territories included some of the UK’s most notorious off-shore tax havens. Could it be that the UK is holding out, blocking progress on tackling tax avoidance in the EU in the hope they can turn the UK into the world’s leading tax haven post-Brexit?”
Greens have been highly critical of the EU blacklisting of tax havens process. They say it contains a number of flaws including lack of transparency, lack of ambitious criteria to assess countries and a process focusing on third countries only, rather than EU Member States, several of whom are known to have harmful tax regimes as highlighted by NGOs like the Tax Justice Network. Greens have also pointed to the lack of credible sanctions for blacklisted countries. Molly is also critical of member states for undermining progress and is demanding a greater role for the European Parliament. She said:
“We are sick and tired of hearing European leaders talk tough on tax justice at home only to undermine progress in private meetings in Brussels. It is time for MEPs to hold them to account.
“Only with public access to documents on the blacklisting process can European citizens hold their governments to account in the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance. The European Parliament’s new committee on tax, which will start work in March and which I hope to be a member of, will be an ideal chance to increase scrutiny of the blacklisting process.”