Janusz Lewandowski, member of the European Commission responsible for the budget, has floated the idea of introducing a new tax to finance the European Union independently of the member states. The tax base, that is, would be independent, not the decisions about whether and how much to raise. Carbon taxes, for example, or a levy on financial transactions might yield revenue that is not currently available to member states’ finances and might never be so, but which nevertheless could be harnessed for the common good.
Mr Lewandowski introduced his suggestion with the observation that some member states’ finance ministries are encouraging him to think exactly along these lines. If the EU could raise more of its own revenue, it could ask for less from the member states directly. National finance ministry officials might welcome this, as this would give them more room to manoeuvre domestically. (A rare instance, this, of national official welcoming European initiatives: normally, they are in the forefront of those who resist them.) The assumption therefore is that EU taxation would not increase the expenditure of the EU, merely change its source.
A second point is that any EU taxation, even if raised from an independent source, would still be approved by the usual EU institutional mechanisms. Specifically, the agreement of the member states would be necessary.
Christopher Booker writes, in the Daily Mail this morning,
“If the EU is given the power to impose its own taxes, without having to battle with member states each time it wants to increase its own budget, the likelihood is that our contribution could go through the roof.”
There is no suggestion, nor should there be, that EU taxation or expenditure might be decided without the involvement of the member states. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible and ill-informed. The British people deserve better from their newspapers.