Friday 21 July 2017

Taxation and Representation

"No taxation without representation," they say. This rarely applies. EU citizens not living in their home state seem particularly badly done by here. Millions live in other EU states, paying tax there, and can only vote in local elections. They can vote in national elections neither in the state where they reside nor the in the state from which they come. An exception appears to be the French presidential elections. 

How different might the results of the June 2016 referendum have been if British nationals living in other EU states and citizens from other EU states living here had been able to vote.

We have many reciprocal tax agreements not only with other EU states but also with other countries including the US. For instance, I'm taxed in the UK on my earnings from This is fair on me as I have no representation in the US. There is a slight oddity here, though, as is serviced by the US yet I pay nothing towards this. Perhaps it's partly made up for, though, by the Americans who earn from but pay no tax here.

More worrying are the number of people living and paying tax in a state who have no representation in that state nor indeed in their home state.

Could we not have some sort of system where the resident chooses whether to have election rights in their home state or in the state where they live and pay taxes? This would be rather like university students electing to vote either at their term time or holiday address.

There is an argument that you actually need representation in both places: you need to have your say about where you live and about what your home state is doing – after all, they may be about to make some big changes about your rights e.g. Brexit. Might is be an idea to let you have a split vote? Perhaps your vote could count as just 50% in both places. Or you could even choose to split it as you see fit – say 10% / 90% in favour of either place? Surely we have the technology to make this easy enough? 

There is an alternative. We get rid of all national barriers and national leaders become regional ones. Brexit and its associated confusion would disappear overnight. Come on United Nations – take the lead on this.      

Thursday 6 July 2017

On being relatively European

"If …. every citizen realizes that the only guarantee for security and peace in this atomic age is the constant development of a supra-national government, then he will do everything in his power to strengthen the United Nations. It seems to me that every reasonable and responsible citizen in the world must know where his choice lies."

From Albert Einstein's open letter to the General Assembly of the United Nations.
I've recently watched the National Geographic Bio-serial about Einstein. Yes there was quite a bit of poetic license but it was enjoyable and informative all the same. Einstein appears as a background character in one of my novels and I've been researching him quite a bit. 
He was used to being a stranger. He left his native Germany to study in Switzerland. His first wife was Serbian. Sometime after he returned to Berlin when he had become an eminent scientist he was persecuted for being Jewish. He gained asylum in the USA but was constantly monitored and was even spied on by the Russian mistress he took after his second wife died.
As a scientist he had grave concerns about the use of nuclear energy for war and encouraged the idea of a supra–national government. The United Nations goes some way to providing that, but they can't solve every problem. For me the most sickening about Blair and Bush's foray into Iraq was the division it caused within the United Nations.    
A few years earlier I'd felt very uncomfortable when we were at war over the Falklands. We seemed alone in the world. We lived near a lot of naval families at the time. War is not trivial and should be avoided.
Let's not dismiss the years of peace in Europe that the Common Market, EEC, EC, EU has brought us.
If I can be in favour of Brexit at all it is to be like Einstein. Let's get rid of borders altogether. Let's just have one world. But this would mean disbanding the whole of the EU and I'm not sure getting rid of all borders is quite what the Brexiteers mean. In the meantime, the EU remains a strong and stable force, even with all its faults, and it represents baby steps towards peace on the planet. Why would we want to go in the other direction?
So whatever happens, I'll remain relatively European. I've been through a process four times now that has involved gradually understanding why others do things which seem a little strange to us, and then understanding so well that those routines and habits become my own at least some of the time. I'm now ready for that process to happen anywhere. Thus I remain relatively European not because I'm more British than European but because I'm even more a global citizen of nowhere.