02 July 2013

"Tax haven" status doesn't sit well in Gibraltar

Our Sovereignty More Important than
UK Tax Concerns!

Through The Looking glass

"...it was inappropriate for the UK to have summoned Gibraltar the way it did, and then dump the Rock with other territories who are known to have a far less and inferior legal financial regime."


The Foreign Office present policy of doing little in putting an end to the now daily event of Spanish state vessels ‘systematically invading our waters’ is creating an uneasy tension and discontent amongst many in the community who believe London is not doing nearly enough to protect Gibraltar’s interest!

Tax Haven Leaders Called to Downing Street! 

Over the weekend the Chief Minister responded to the call by UK Prime Minister David Cameron to attend a meeting with other leaders of overseas territories and dependents. 

This is an issue I personally questioned a few weeks ago…I was unhappy the CM was invited on the basis that he was, which came under the same negative public headlines received by other small UK offshore centres who have not done half as much as Gibraltar to clean up its act and distance itself from the Tax Haven Label. Many of our offshore peer jurisdictions have not even caught with the Rock which is miles ahead! 

The UK and international press helped by the Downing Street press machine spun an effective yarn, highlighting how Cameron had managed to firstly ‘summons and then convince all the UK tax havens (Gibraltar included) scattered all over planet to play ball and fall in line with the rest of the world on the negative tax problems’ which hypocritically nations like the USA, Germany, France, Spain and the UK themselves now want to eradicate!

Frankly I believe Gibraltar having attended to Mr Cameron’s call (in the manner it did) did not in my view gained anything positive from it, in fact on the contrary. There was a constant flow (especially from Spain) of negative press surrounding the news, mostly directed at the overseas and dependent territories…every nation who attended was painted with the same tax haven brush. If there was anything positive it obviously went to Mr Cameron for taking the initiative, this is how the Downing Street spin machine were successful in portraying before the G8 meeting kicked off. 

The British Prime Minister David Cameron spent the best part of last month anxiously running round working overtime attempting to persuade or may be insist that the small cluster of nations that form part of the UK’s overseas territories and crown dependencies do more to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance in their respective jurisdictions.

Cameron’s late surge was all part of an urgent rushed plan by Downing Street in order to make progress in closing so called tax loopholes before the UK played host to a meeting of G8 leaders in Belfast this Monday and Tuesday which Mr Cameron chaired.

Government Right To Back Cameron Call But Not The Way It Was Arranged! 

Quite rightly the Gibraltar Government backed Mr Cameron’s call for transparency in the British Dependent Overseas Territories. Cameron was keen to highlight Britain’s position in fighting tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance through tax information exchange and access to information on beneficial ownership of companies. A beaming Prime Minister later described it as “a very positive step forward and it means that Britain’s voice in the G8 and the campaigning on this issue around the world for proper taxes, proper companies and proper laws ... will be stronger.”

My main concern with the whole Cameron (overseas leaders) initiative is that it was inappropriate for the UK to have summoned Gibraltar the way it did, and then dump the Rock with other territories who are known to have a far less and inferior legal financial regime. In this respect Downing Street was out of line. …The implications flying everywhere about this meeting and reported by the world press was one that Gibraltar and others who attended Cameron’s calling, were somehow acting in an inappropriate manner and need to be held to account!

Some countries believe the Cameron initiative was rooted in a level of hypocrisy, particularly when you think many of the bigger nations including the UK and USA… The latter has its own suspect if less well-known suspect onshore practices in jurisdictions such as Delaware in the old U S of A.

And here we have Gibraltar who has ploughed ahead with its own financial reforms and complied with most international measures. The Rock is also up to date with all pertinent EU directives. Gibraltar has committed to the OECD standard having entered into 26 Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA) with numerous nations across the globe. I heard none of this over the weekend from any of the 

UK or international press
Like I said earlier there is no criticism levelled (sic) at the Chief Minister for having attended Mr Cameron’s meeting in the UK capital. Although if the UK Prime Minister really wanted to heap public praise on the leadership of the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies for their efforts in fighting tax evasion and fraud as has been reported he said. Mr Cameron or his press people could have done it very differently, instead of creating a totally negative world press when inviting the leaders of (of so called tax havens) and just before a G8 meeting to give it even more negative publicity!

Frankly I am not convinced at all about the sudden fuss on the tax issue by the biggest industrialised nations who make the G8 gang, even if they are pushing for global reform in the most dodgiest financial corners of the world. It looks more like an attempt to marginalise smaller, less powerful, territories like Gibraltar and others. Ironically even after the first day of the G8 get together in Belfast on Monday, the G8 are having difficulties in agreeing amongst themselves these important tax matters they impose on other nations! 

Our Sovereignty More Important Than The UK’s Tax Concerns! (sovereignty? As a British dependency? - OTR) 

Whilst the British Government works flat out leaving no stone unturned in an attempt to lead the way in ridding the world of tax havens and aggressive tax cheats… Gibraltar continues alone it seems with its on-going battle and growing concerns as a nation. 

The concerns of the people of Gibraltar are not about offshore taxes, important as they may be to others. Our anxieties go deeper than taxes and money. Ours is about our future our identity as a people in the form of our right to our sovereignty, our land and the waters that surround us and importantly… the right to determine our future!

Our concerns are also about dealing with a ‘hostile neighbour’ who on a daily basis invades our waters with impunity ‘because of the zero response by the administering power’ the United Kingdom. The same United Kingdom and the same administering power who only a few days ago publicly brought to-book ten overseas territories and crown dependencies including Gibraltar for not doing enough it seems regarding tax evasion!

The ironic situation now is that the same ‘Administering Power in London ‘continuous to ignore and play down its own obligations to defend the people of Gibraltar from a hostile neighbour in the form of the Kingdom of Spain. The UK’s obligations to Gibraltar are clearly written in the Constitution, it is law. These obligations at the moment and where it matters… is nowhere to be seen! 

There’s no doubt the United Kingdom by way of the Foreign Office is letting Gibraltar down by allowing the Spanish Government to consolidate its own agenda of intimidation and threats…making our lives a continuous (worrying) misery not only at sea but also by land at the frontier - daily! 

The latest incursion by the Spanish warship ‘P64 Tarifa’ last week generated another futile diplomatic protest by the Foreign Office, coupled with the 56 recorded illegal incursions or invasions by Spanish state vessels between the 12 May to 11 June which now must be over 70 if the long weekend figures are included. 

The Situation is ‘Out of Control’ 

The invasion (or foreign office definition - incursions) are now out of control, its reached that point because it is simple not controlled. When issues or incidents of this nature are not tackled effectively or not at all ‘they inevitable get out of control’… Basic Logic! 

The foreign office when take the familiar shallow-line of “All unlawful incursions are challenged by Gibraltar Squadron and all are subject to a diplomatic protest” this is a farcical statement for quite a few reasons!

The Real Challenge Not From the UK
Where is the physical evidence that the continuous Spanish invasion of our waters is being challenged by the Gib Squadron or anyone else in the true sense of the word? 

According to my dictionary ‘to challenge something or someone’ is to engage in a contest, fight. An act or statement of defiance; a call to confrontation, if you tone the definition down even further it also means “determination to deal with or achieve something”… the latter sentiment is completely absent under the current FCO Policy!

The only visible or real challenge is the one presented daily by Spanish state vessels which the Foreign Office appears inept in effectively engaging!

As I reported last week the situation looks to be getting worse, more serious and deteriorating as the Spanish invasion into BGTW increases. With the latter scenario the level of danger obviously increases, more so in the summer months as more members of the public youngsters in particular, venture out into the bay or other areas of local waters. 

I hope I am wrong, but I have little doubt there will be more than one incident in BGTW involving the public and a spanish state vessel that will hit local headlines, this before the summer ends! 

Losing Faith in the FCO! 

Personally, I am quickly losing all faith with the FCO especially with their present lukewarm policy. When you hear a statement like the one last week by the Europe Minister David Lidington when he said “Spanish incursions do not pose a credible threat to Gibraltar’s security or defence” you begin to wonder if the Foreign Office have lost the plot in their misguided desire to be over, under or to diplomatic with the Spaniards and under-achievers for Gibraltar!

We were also informed over the weekend that David Cameron had confirmed he remained “staunchly supportive” of the international legal status of BGTW as unquestionably British, which was unaffected by the repeated incursions by Spain.” This remark is like the one the UK continuously repeats that they are ‘confident’ about the legal status of the waters.

These words mean very little at the moment... You can be staunchly supportive and confident as the UK say they are…But what use are words when they are not supported by some tangible commitment. Words in the wind get easily blown away, particularly with Gibraltar’s strong levanter which is known to whip up a strong breeze!

Are We Prepared to do Anything? 

I end by turning to the people of Gibraltar; I have made similar remarks many times before. 

As a small nation (?), we moan, groan and criticise everything under the sun… but do very little for ourselves.

We cannot expect others do everything for us, or as we would like. If we are not prepared ourselves to go out of our way to demonstrate our feelings and beliefs in a manner, which would leave no uncertainties how we truly feel as a society! 

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