Letter: That EU `tax plan'

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The Independent Culture
Sir: "Brown snubbed in EU tax row" (2 December). What a ludicrous tail-wags-dog headline! The UK press, even my beloved Independent, appears to be locked into a mindset about Europe which is wholly tangential to what is actually going on.

The suggestion that corporation and savings taxes be standardised across the 11 Euroland countries comes from just two member states: Germany and France. The UK media report this proposal as an already agreed "European tax plan" which is being foisted upon one other country - the UK. Britain is not even in the euro zone, for God's sake! What about the other nine Euroland countries which are? Their attitudes never even get a mention, let alone an analysis.

No changes in taxation measures can be imposed on a country without unanimity in the EU Council. There is nothing even approaching a majority for such a move within the Council. As the President of the European Central Bank said on Tuesday: "I regard [tax standardisation] as something that could happen over time. But it could take decades."

So what is all the hoo-ha in the UK about? I believe it is generated by two forms of myopia specific to the London-based political class. First, that European politics is still Great Power politics, with the only serious players being Germany, France and the UK. The rest, despite the European Treaties, count for nothing. Second, the Britain-versus-the-Continent story was so thoroughly hammered into the national psyche by Margaret Thatcher that it is still a cataract distorting English perceptions of everything in European politics.