28th November 2017
Today, leaders of the UK’s overseas territories gather in London for the annual Joint Ministerial Council at the Foreign Office. The focus, understandably, will be on disaster relief and improving resilience to climate change, following this summer’s hurricanes that caused huge damage in the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
As the rebuilding efforts develop, Christian Aid is calling for the UK Government and its overseas territories to work together to ensure that the overseas territories’ economies are sustainable in the long-term. As many of these economies are reliant on financial secrecy and low tax, and following the Paradise Papers, the time has come to discuss how overseas territories might transition away from this status quo.
In the wake of global outrage over the recent tax scandal, ComRes, on behalf of Christian Aid, has revealed that almost nine out of 10 (89%) British adults say tax avoidance by large companies is morally wrong even if it’s legal, while three-quarters (75%) say the UK Government should legislate to discourage UK companies from avoiding tax in developing countries.
Actions by governments against tax avoidance and evasion, driven by a turning tide of public opinion, coupled with the ever-increasing flow of information entering the public domain, call into question the sustainability of economic models that rely on providing various combinations of secrecy and low taxation.
Toby Quantrill, Head of Economic Development at Christian Aid said: “It is time to stop defending the indefensible and for the UK Government and the overseas territories to work together towards a sustainable alternative future for the good of everyone. We have been having the same conversation for more than four years and now it is time for action.
"At this Joint Ministerial Council, we need to see moves to create public registers of beneficial ownership in all the overseas territories, providing the same level of transparency that we already have in the UK. The UK Government also has a responsibility to support an economic transition and so far this seems entirely missing from these discussions.”