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This all seems slightly pettifogging

Summary:
It is indeed true that the rule of law is important. And yet quite how that rule should be enforced can be muttered about. Possibly not this way:The British government has been ordered to pay the European commission’s legal costs after being successfully sued for granting City traders a tax break without EU permission. The European court of justice ruled that the UK breached an EU directive by failing to notify Brussels of a zero rate of VAT given to commodities traders over the last four decades.The UK is now expected by Brussels to seek the authorisation of the 27 member states or drop the policy, which it is claimed has unfairly boosted the City of London at the expense of other EU financial centres.To give a rough background. When the UK joined the EU certain - 11 of them - commodities

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It is indeed true that the rule of law is important. And yet quite how that rule should be enforced can be muttered about. Possibly not this way:

The British government has been ordered to pay the European commission’s legal costs after being successfully sued for granting City traders a tax break without EU permission.

The European court of justice ruled that the UK breached an EU directive by failing to notify Brussels of a zero rate of VAT given to commodities traders over the last four decades.

The UK is now expected by Brussels to seek the authorisation of the 27 member states or drop the policy, which it is claimed has unfairly boosted the City of London at the expense of other EU financial centres.

To give a rough background. When the UK joined the EU certain - 11 of them - commodities exchanges were able to trade derivatives without VAT being charged upon the transactions. Over the decades since then new exchanges have opened, new contracts are traded, should they be charged VAT, those transactions upon and in them, or not?

The EU says, well, permission is needed.

The court’s judges, led by a French jurist, Jean-Claude Bonichot, agreed with the commission that the lack of notification did amount to a breach of the EU’s directives. The court added that the judgment held no sway on whether authorisation should be given if it was sought.

Note what this isn’t about, whether VAT should righteously be charged or not. It’s about whether permission was asked.

The English, fueled by the Common Law, approach is, well, commodity futures are unVATed, these are commodities futures, what’s the problem? The EU legal system demands that permission. That is, largely the difference between a legal system that works on basic structures and compares like with like to equalise the law over similars and one that depends upon official documentation from the centre, the bureaucracy, to operate.

We can’t help but think that a legal system trying to cover 450 million people using that second approach is going to end up being overly pettifogging.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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