La Treizième Étoile: 13/11/11 - 20/11/11 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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SW Tory MEPs express collective dismay as Court rejects Gibraltar tax code proposals

Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Conservative MEPs Giles Chichester, Ashley Fox and Julie Girling pictured with Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana, second right (Photo: Ashley Fox MEP newsletter)Conservative MEPs Giles Chichester, Ashley Fox and Julie Girling have together expressed their disappointment at the European Court of Justice after it ruled yesterday (15 November) that proposed changes to Gibraltar's corporate tax code did in fact constitute unlawful state aid.

The changes as were proposed over a decade ago by Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Peter Caruana, sought to cap tax liability at 15% of profits compared with 35% at present, and in effect exempt offshore companies without a physical presence in Gibraltar since they tax business property occupation and payrolls.

The saga began in 2002 when the UK first informed the European Commission that Gibraltar was to introduce a new business-tax regime. After much inspection, the European Commission decided in 2004 that this regime violated the EU's internal-market rules - a decision that Gibraltar and the UK consequently appealed against.

After many years of contention, the European Court of First Instance ruled in favour of Gibraltar effectively giving it the jurisdiction licence to set its own tax rules. Back then, in its verdict, the Court said that although the UK is representative of Gibraltar, the Rock does, however, have fiscal autonomy from the UK, and therefore can introduce its own individual tax system.

This ruling thus prompted a second appeal, this time by the Commission and Spain, which claims Gibraltar as its territory, and now the European Court, based in Luxembourg, chose to back the position taken of the European Commission stating that under EU law Gibraltar is not entitled to have a tax regime different to the UK’s.

A tax system designed in such a way that offshore companies avoid taxation constitutes a state-aid scheme that is incompatible with the internal market,the Court wrote in a press release today.

In reaction, the three Conservative MEPs who represent Gibralar, issued a joint statement today stating: “We are dismayed that Gibraltarians' growing prosperity will be undermined by this attack on their right to set tax levels as they please. It is deeply regrettable that the European Court of Justice has chosen not to back people's freedoms.

"We know Gibraltarians well and while they are proudly British and loyal to the Crown, they are also very quick to assert their democratic independence, their right to self-determination and their right to set their own laws and taxes. Unfortunately the court has not vindicated those rights and has allowed Gibraltar to be victimised by the Commission," they said.

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Chichester produces booklet outlining EU funding opportunitues for SW SMEs

Tuesday, 15 November 2011
One of the region's Conservative MEPs Giles Chichester, who has himself ran a small business for many years, is urging firms to look at what opportunities there are in the rest of the Europe.

Mr Chichester, a vice president of the European Parliament and member of its Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), believes there is plenty of money and advice available if firms know where to look. To this end, he has put together a new guide to outline the opportunities available to local businesses titled SESAME - 'Supporting Every Small and Medium-sized Enterprise'.

Speaking to Bristol's, he said: "I ran a small business for 25 years. Most small businesses need information where they can get help and advice. One of the things they need most of all is assistance with finance."

"[EU support is] not the whole answer because you'll never get more than half of what you're after, but it's another source to go to in these hard times, it's a bit difficult to get finance for small businesses, this is an alternative," he said.

The guide aims to highlight what EU support is available especially for small businesses looking to grow and shore themselves up in the current economic climate and electronic copies of the guide are available on request from Giles Chichester's office.

Update 24/11: the office of Mr Chichester has sent me a link to the guide on his website.


MEP Girling slams adopted EP report on poverty as 'well-meaning but naïve'

MEPs voting in Strasbourg (Photo: AP/BBC News)South West MEP Julie Girling and her Conservative colleagues have reacted angrily to a motion for resolution adopted today by show of hands by MEPs in Strasbourg that calls for the possibility of creating a legally-enforceable Europe-wide minimum income be investigated and for poverty to become classified as a 'violation' of human rights.

Mrs Girling, who is the Conservative MEPs' spokeswoman on employment and social affairs, joined her ECR colleagues in voting against the motion put forward by Belgian Socialist MEP Frédéric Daerden and described it as "well-meaning but naïve".

The Daerden report (A7-0370/2011) calls on the EU to create a regular, critical evaluation-mechanism to judge each member state's "progress in reducing poverty and social exclusion", and produce an annual report on how all the EU countries are measuring up.

In addition, it calls for extra spending on state benefits across Europe for people with long-term illness or disability, for single parents and for families with 'many' children, and even for a convention on poverty and social exclusion - lasting at least a week - to take place every year in different venues across Europe.

In a press release following the vote, Mrs Girling attacked the motion's ambitions by stating: "you can't create prosperity by wishful thinking."

"Nobody denies that poverty is a real and pressing problem. But poverty has nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with lack of opportunity and incentive to work productively," she said.

"These are the factors we must target. That is how wealth is created across society, and how the disadvantaged can best be lifted out of poverty […] This motion not only interferes with matters that should be tackled at national level but puts forward proposals which would actually make nations poorer, not better-off. To think otherwise is well-meaning but naive."


Watson vs Farage: 'not one single British job depends on EU membership' exclaims UKIP leader

Monday, 14 November 2011
This week's The Record Europe again saw South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson clash with UKIP leader and MEP Nigel Farage, and thanks to the UKIP press team, we can all enjoy the confrontation via YouTube.

While the continuing troubles in the Eurozone took centre stage, the two British MEPs clashed over whether EU membership was beneficial to the UK with Sir Graham managing to extort out of Mr Farage an outright untruth "not one single British job depends on EU membership", before later labelling him and his UKIP party as "deeply unpatriotic".

Click on the video above to watch, and enjoy, the confrontation once more.

Sir Graham has this morning issued a press release stating that Mr Farage's job claim is "deluded" and called on him to justify his statements.

"Quite frankly Farage is deluded about the impact that leaving the European Union would have on the United Kingdom," he said. "3.5 million jobs depend on our trade with other EU states. To pull out now would not only leave us isolated, but we would have to continue to comply with EU regulations - over which we would have no say - in order to export our goods!"

"UKIP need to stop pulling the wool over peoples eyes and set the facts straight as to what exactly EU membership withdrawal would mean to UK people. Instead of standing by a fax machine waiting for the next directive or regulation from Brussels, we are in the room leading the debate and making the key decisions," he continued.

"To sit on the sidelines as spectators would be sheer folly."


All in the line of duty: MEP goes training with the Royal Marine Commandos

Sunday, 13 November 2011
Conservative MEP Ashley Fox has taken the opportunity to swap the desks and paperwork for assault rifles, lessons in self-defence and the chance to stranglehold a fellow Conservative politician – and all in the line of duty.

As he describes at length in his current newsletter, Mr Fox recently accepted an invitation to visit the Commando Training Centre for the Royal Marines near Lympstone in Devon last month as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme he is currently participating in.

Founded in set up in 1989, the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme is a privately-run initiative developed to give Members the opportunity of experiencing for themselves the ethos and culture of the Defence community, and in particular challenges facing our Armed Forces at home and on operations overseas.

During his three-day visit to the East Devon site, Mr Fox said he had the chance to get involved in “some of the hands on training that new recruits have to go to” including lessons in self defence and marksmanship.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to use the Marines SA80A2 Assault Rifle in some shooting practice [below], and enjoyed the chance to try a ‘choke hold’ on Mark Lancaster MP [left], although I found it very unfair that they also gave him the opportunity to try it on me afterwards,” he writes in his newsletter report.

The Royal Marines are a firm fixture of the British Military and primarily situated in the South West where six of their eight bases are found,he writes. “With the gradual reduction in the size of our military, the Royal Marines have become increasingly important. Modern day military intervention is no longer about enormous conflagrations of men and armour; rather it is about pressure applied at a point and the surgical strike.

The Royal Marines, and indeed our entire military, have always personified courage, determination and sacrifice. Thank you to the Royal Marines.

Ashley Fox at Lympstone Commando Training Camp (Photo: Ashley Fox/Facebook)


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