There May Be No Famous Belgians, but a Dangerous One Runs Europe

Daily Mail (London), November 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

There May Be No Famous Belgians, but a Dangerous One Runs Europe


Byline: The Mary Ellen Synon COLUMN

IF YOU reckon you can take comfort in the fact that Herman Van Rompuy, the new president of the European Council, has the look and manner of an aging and dozy rodent, forget about it. His call for the imposition of EU taxes is just the first of his European policies that are going to mean pain for this country.

The man is no bumbler, despite the international joke of being a Belgian prime minister who rose to office without being elected - he was merely appointed last year by the king. Those in Brussels who know Mr Van Rompuy tell me he is a manipulator. As Paul Belien, the editor of The Brussels Journal, wrote in this paper on Saturday, Mr Van Rompuy is the 'shrewd master of the shabby compromise.' Dr Belien has known Mr Van Rompuy since the mid-Eighties, and he knows the new council president has just one political ideal: 'The creation of a federal superstate, destroying national identities across Europe.'

He is, in short, exactly the man to help Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, throw the switches on all the new centralising powers the European institutions now have thanks to the Lisbon Treaty.

Take Mr Van Rompuy's call for taxes to be imposed on all of us directly by the EU. He was not just thinking aloud at a private dinner. His call was not just the Belgian prime minister running a flag up a pole to see if anyone salutes. His call was for the EU to go ahead and implement the new tax powers it will have when Lisbon comes into force next month.

Article 311 of the section of Lisbon called the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union covers this. Not that our Government much advertised Article 311 during the referendum.

Changes

Nor indeed much advertised the changes Lisbon makes to EU control over our level of corporation tax. Mr Van Rompuy's established policy is to drive always towards greater and greater 'harmonisation' - that is, equalisation - of all taxes across the 27 member states. Lisbon now clears the path for him and other ardent centralisers to 'harmonise' our low rate of corporation tax out of existence.

The ground for the change is already being prepared by Mr Barroso and the former European Commissioner for the single market, Mario Monti. Mr Barroso has commissioned Mr Monti to write a study of the single market.

It is no surprise to learn that the study will be nothing but an excuse for the former commissioner to showcase the 'big idea' he now shares with the commission president - that the EU must suppress its competitive and liberal policies in order to insure social 'redistribution'.

How to do this? According to a recent Charlemagne column in The Economist: 'In concrete terms, Mr Monti talks of curbing tax competition between EU countries, so that governments can pay for social policies dear to European voters even as they fix their battered public finances. This could mean agreed minimum tax rates, he suggests, notably on capital and corporate profits.'

Of course, any mention of such harmonisation always brings the same response from the Finance Department. At the weekend, the department was at it again, dismissing Mr Van Rompuy's calls for implementation of EU-wide taxes with the usual line: 'Taxation matters remain the responsibility of member states and there is no agreement to change that situation.'

Which is not quite right. The agreement to 'change that situation' is Lisbon itself. Previous treaty law only demanded that taxes in member countries must not interfere with the functioning of the market. Lisbon adds the imperative that taxes in EU member states must also avoid the 'distortion of competition'.

Now, the cry usually goes up from euroenthusiasts that these restrictions only apply to indirect taxation, and corporation tax is a direct tax. To which one can reply: 'Sez who?' Dig deeper and you will come up with the fact that the new Lisbon line about 'distortion of competition' opens the way for more court cases at the European Court of Justice. …

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