What does the UK decision on offshore banks mean?

August 13th, 2009

I have been chased by journalists (all from outside the UK) today asking what the UK decision to force offshore banks to disclose details of account holders to HM Revenue & Customs might mean. The Swiss are particularly keen.

The honest answer is, of course, that we do not yet know.

The most likely answer is that it depends on two things – first whether the banks appeal and succeed in doing so and second how far the UK is willing to go to enforce this.

I doubt there will be a successful appeal. I can’t see why there should be. I could argue the point for hours:  I’ll leave it at that.

And I’m not sure how far the UK could go, but the obvious answer is they could close down a bank’s operation in the UK if it refused to cooperate.

Will they? I don’t know. I hope they threaten it. I hope the Swiss are very worried. And as I told their radio: they should be. they can do what they like domestically on bank secrecy but they have no right to impose their law on us. If they want to be in the UK (and every bank does) then they have to play by our law or go.

It’s a blunt message. I hope it is delivered.

Then we’ll see radical action following on from this decision. Which is good news for the UK, and very bad news for cheats.

Written by Richard Murphy

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