IF AND WHEN The Neverending Brexit Story ever comes to an end, everyone on the Brexit debate agrees that a free-trade agreement with the United States is pretty much essential.
Some, optimistically, seem to believe that Britain - fresh off the back of severing ties with the world's largest trading block - will be in the strongest possible position to negotiate a deal with the richest nation on Earth. But whatever Donald Trump says in public, people behind the scenes are making it pretty clear that Britain will have to jump through a few miserable looking hoops.
One of these is abandoning the tax on US tech giants, which is due to bring in some £400m of funds for the treasury by 2020. The Telegraph reports that the request/threat has been "communicated to the UK government at multiple levels," with one source telling the paper that "the message was, 'if you go ahead and introduce this tax, we will not begin free trade negotiations with you.'"
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as recently as last month that he was in favour of the tax. "I think it's deeply unfair that high street businesses are paying tax through the nose, whereas the internet giants, the Fangs - Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google - are paying virtually nothing," he said, while out campaigning in York. "We've got to find a way of taxing the internet giants on their income, because at the moment it is simply unfair."
We'll see how long that commitment lasts, given the strength of feeling from America. One of the warnings from the US reportedly came from Ron Wyden, the most senior Democrat on the Senate Finance committee, who reportedly told then international trade secretary Liam Fox that "there should not be any negotiations on a trade deal as long as a digital services tax is being pursued by Britain."
Taking back control was fun while it lasted. But it's more fun to pass that control onto someone else, eh? µ
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