Brexit Bulletin: As the PM dallies, Amazon fiddles us

Brexit Bulletin: As the PM dallies, Amazon fiddles us

February 2, 2019brexitmay387Views
40 years on Philip Gilbert surveys another winter of discontent
‘Yankee dollar talk, To the dictators of the world, In fact it’s giving orders, An’ they can’t afford to miss a word’1

Amazon has paid only £61.7m in UK corporation tax in 20 years whilst amassing C.£7bn is sales. In comparison , Marks & Spencer paid more tax than that in the last year alone.

As the high street reels after another tough Christmas and a string of chains collapsed, Amazon’s global sales jumped by a fifth to £55billon in the final quarter of 2018, taking the total for the whole of last year to £177billion. Full-year operating profits rose from £3.3billion to £9.5billion.

The firm’s biggest business in the UK, the one that discloses its taxes is Amazon UK Services, which handles the retailer’s fulfilment centres and customer services.

This business has turned over £6.86billion since 1998 but made only £213million in profit over that period, including five years of losses. By comparison our surviving high street champions paid:

  • Marks & Spencer paid £65.4million corporation tax last year, and £3.3billion in the two decades over which Amazon UK Services paid £61.7million
  • Ailing Debenhams has paid £303million since 2005.
  • Supermarket giant Tesco’s corporation tax bill last year was £176million.
  • The John Lewis Partnership paid £43million in tax in 2017/18 and £50million the year before.

We don’t need to leave Europe, our biggest export market, to save money, we just need to stop tax avoidance that not only short-changes all of us, it is destroying out high streets.

Naturally, whilst we are being taken advantage of, our Leader has been (and, yes she is) basking in the glory of this weeks’ triumphs.

After repeating ad nauseum that her deal was the only deal on offer, she stood at the despatch box urging MPs to vote for an amendment that trashes that very same deal.

The Brady amendment, which passed by 16 votes, demands what May had constantly said, up until yesterday morning, was impossible: the replacement of the Northern Irish backstop with “alternative arrangements”.

Extraordinarily, our Leader manages to combine grinding intransigence with a willingness to perform the most brazen U-turns.

our Leader manages to combine grinding intransigence with a willingness to perform the most brazen U-turns

All sides of the Tory party cheered this new-found unity, and they are all deluded.  It’s the familiar Brexit delusion, which Brussels took all of six minutes to crush, by declaring, yet again, that “the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.”

All our leader has achieved is to have her party to unite behind a stance that is doomed to fail.

Reassuringly, whilst the Tories are still chasing rainbows, Labour is in its own fantasyland.

A shadow cabinet minister was on TV uttering more rubbish about “Labour’s alternative” Brexit and how it’s going to negotiate a “strong single-market relationship” – all the benefits, none of the costs, and with only weeks to go before we leave the EU.

All of this just 24 hours after the party had embarrassed itself by planning to abstain on Tory legislation ending the free movement of people, only to reverse position 90 minutes later following a backlash on Twitter.

It now obvious that Parliament cannot deliver, its members are submerged in a sea of self-preservation. The government seems satisfied with the gratification of appearing unified at last, whereas, the 27 EU member states have managed to funnel their different interests into one withdrawal agreement with the UK.

For our Leader to change her mind about that now, two months before departure day, is beyond reckless, it is disingenuous.

beyond reckless, it is disingenuous

Every time our Leader has to choose between confronting or indulging Tory anti-Brussels prejudice, she has sided with the fanatics; the Eurosceptic ultras do not expect, or even want, satisfaction from a renegotiated deal, instead they will plan to make hay when, inevitably, it is rejected.

Theirs is a long-game; we are still scheduled to leave on March 29th, if there is no agreement, which now seems inevitable, we leave with No Deal; their intention all along

The EU will not pander to the Ultras, our Leader, lacking a majority in Parliament does. But it this political expediency, or is it a cultural affinity, a sense of belonging, an irrational loyalty that supersedes the call of serious statesmanship?

To be a successful, a politician must, in times of emergency, put country before party. Instead our Leader consoles herself with worthless moments of Tory unity, for this Mrs May and the party will one day be held to account. They must remember, it’s the public that elects them to their ivory tower,  who will be their victims, and their final judge…

“But don’t forget, it’s me who put you where you are now, And I can put you back down too.”2

OK lyric spotters, a couple of familiar tunes this week, but did you spot them?

1 Actually pre-dates the Winter of Discontent by two years – you may be concerned to hear that it was in 1977 that the fabulous Clash told us ‘I’m so Bored with the USA’.

Five years later  it was when the Human League asked ‘Don’t You Want me?’ – and how things had changed – look at that barnet! 

Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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