Depending on your point of view, the financial transactions tax (FTT), details of which are being thrashed out in Brussels, is either a mighty weapon for bringing all-powerful bankers to heel and stabilising Europe's economies in the process – or a pernicious and spiteful attack on legitimate business activities.
Development campaigners have expended years of effort demanding a "Robin Hood tax". But it has been fiercely resisted, not only by the UK, which has mounted a legal challenge against the decision of 11 European member states to go ahead with an FTT, but by those consummate lobbyists the banks.
Reports from Brussels on Thursday suggested at least some countries are touting a drastically diminished FTT, levied at just 0.01% on bond and share transactions, instead of the planned 0.1%, and raising closer to €3.5bn than the €35bn-plus that had been hoped for (which, by the way, is expected to disappear straight into member states' coffers). Insiders say we may have to wait until after the German elections to get a final decision on the FTT's shape, but given Europe's propensity for lowest-common-denominator muddling-through, it looks likely the outcome may turn out to be a fleabite, instead of the mighty arrow aimed at the heart of the markets the Robin Hood campaigners hoped for.
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