Boris Johnson’s tightrope walk over Brexit, with the PM posturing as the saviour of British sovereignty whilst simultaneously behind the scenes continuing to kowtow to the multinationals, is looking wobbly.
Johnson’s planned address to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), billed as the main attraction at the group’s annual conference, was cancelled at the last moment. In an apparent attempt to soften the force of this clumsy snub, the PM subsequently sent a brief video to make amends, promising that his door was “always open”. (How US tech giants have big say in voice of British business by Callum Jones, Alex Ralph and Tom Ball, The Times, 7 November 2000)
The CBI played a major part in stoking up the anti-Brexit propaganda deluge, warning in lurid terms about the disasters that would befall the economy were the country to quit the European Union capitalist club for good. So the CBI is wary of Johnson’s Brexit posture, and perhaps takes his espousal of national economic independence more seriously than does the PM himself.
What is putting the cat among the pigeons at the moment is the government’s half-hearted effort to get the multinationals to pay a slightly higher fraction of the British tax bill. A new digital services tax, claims the government, will make “global giants with profitable businesses in the UK pay their fair share towards supporting our public services”. (Amazon sits on CBI tax committee by Alex Ralph, Callum Jones and Tom Ball, The Times, 7 November 2000)
Already this tax has been shown to have rubber teeth, enabling the likes of Amazon by a loophole to simply pass the tax hike on to the small businesses which kibbutz on its online market place. The real purpose of the new tax is as a PR exercise aimed at reassuring those of us who actually pay our taxes that something is being done to make the fat cats pay theirs.
The government will do nothing to seriously hamper the rights of monopoly capital to rip off the public purse, however, never venturing beyond symbolic gestures towards mollifying public opinion.
But this has not placated the CBI, which denounces the new tax as a “high-risk” attack on big business, crying before it is hit. And unlike the hapless tax payer in the street, monopoly capitalism is guaranteed to have its voice taken seriously by any government that wants to survive.
This so-called Confederation of British Industry, an enormously powerful lobbying group whose ‘advice’ governments ignore at their peril, is in fact dominated by multinationals owing no allegiance whatever to Britain’s national interests.
The Anglo-Dutch Unilever group, currently trying to dodge a tax bill from the HMRC of up to €600m, actually has its man chairing the CBI’s own tax committee. Tax-shy Amazon has a seat on that same committee, as has Barclays.
The CBI’s influential technology committee, chaired by Facebook, has representatives from 25 companies, 15 of them American big hitters like Uber, Twitter and eBay. Britain has just nine companies on that committee.
Numerous other CBI committees are chaired by delegates from multinationals such including Deutsche Bank, Lloyds Banking, Tesco, Siemens, BP and IBM.
Meanwhile, as Boris Johnson steers us out of the frying pan of EU imperialism and into the fire of US imperialism, the sight of these multinational robber barons so brazenly looting the public purse threatens to undermine public faith in capitalism itself.
The Times quotes a former CEO of a FTSE 100 company as saying that their behaviour “seems astonishing. Whatever they’re thinking, it will reinforce society’s view that businesses have an agenda not to pay their way. That’s pretty stupid in these times.”