“I want to raise my concerns about the UK government’s [post-Brexit] proposals for a Singapore-on-Thames. Senior government ministers have been signalling the Singapore-on-Thames development strategy since January 2017, when Prime Minister May and her Chancellor Philip Hammond both flagged it up as a potential route.
Just to put this in context, Singapore has rapidly expanded its role as an offshore financial centre in the past decade, currently ranks number five on the Financial Secrecy Index, and has a secrecy score of 67. That secrecy score reflects general weaknesses in Singapore’s corporate transparency regime and a low level of commitment to tackling corporate tax dodging.
What the Singapore-on-Thames visionaries appear to have in mind can be summed up as:
A commitment to sweeping tax cuts for corporations and mobile rich people – tax wars as a fiscal weapon;
- Tax measures such as accelerated capital allowances to attract mobile investments to UK;
- Comprehensive de-regulation, removal of social and environmental protections;
- Weak or non-existent compliance with international antimoney-laundering measures;
- Retaining golden visa arrangements to provide residence rights of wealthy non-British citizens, increasing exposure to oligarchs and corrupt illicit financial flows.
Of course, none of this is new. The UK set out down the route of becoming a major tax haven economy in the 1950s and has pursued this development strategy under governments of all complexions.