Cyprus: sunny doesn't equal safe

A timely reminder.

The recent announcement by the Cypriot government regarding the levy on savings accounts has caused a bit of a stir, to say the least, even though it's now been defeated. 

Depending on your vantage point, it can be seen as an unlawful expropriation of assets or a desperate measure to secure the EU bailout package, or somewhere in between. But whatever your stance, the overriding concerns must be:

1. At what cost (in terms of national and international confidence)?
2. And will it set a precedent for other governments facing similar economic problems? I am sure other governments will be observing the ripples closely, anxious to avoid a tsunami on their own shores.

While bank bashing is currently all the rage (both onshore and offshore), it's a salutary reminder to those looking for a depositary jurisdiction to consider all the pros and cons - not just fiscal - of the recipient jurisdiction.

To the layman, it might appear that the sunnier the clime, the lower the tax rate, which certainly has its appeal. However, as recent events have shown, it is vital to look closely at political stability and robust regulation as well as the fiscal climate when forum shopping.

As Marios Skandalis (perhaps an unfortunate surname in the circumstances), vice president of the Cyprus Institute of Certified Public Accountants, points out: "The whole banking system is based on trust. If the trust is lost, the whole system is going to collapse."

This must be a lesson for everyone. Surely a banking system based on rigorous financial regulation and complete transparency rather than trust, would fare better? Then the (incorrect) analogy between the atmospheric climate and the economic climate would no longer be drawn.

Sophie Mazzier is counsel at private client firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP

This blog first appeared on Spear's.

Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
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The campaign to keep Britain in Europe must be based on hope, not fear

Together we can show the world a generous, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of.

Today the Liberal Democrats launched our national campaign to keep Britain in Europe. With the polls showing the outcome of this referendum is on a knife-edge, our party is determined to play a decisive role in this once in a generation fight. This will not be an easy campaign. But it is one we will relish as the UK's most outward-looking and internationalist party. Together in Europe the UK has delivered peace, created the world’s largest free trade area and given the British people the opportunity to live, work and travel freely across the continent. Now is the time to build on these achievements, not throw them all away.

Already we are hearing fear-mongering from both sides in this heated debate. On the one hand, Ukip and the feuding Leave campaigns have shamelessly seized on the events in Cologne at New Year to claim that British women will be at risk if the UK stays in Europe. On the other, David Cameron claims that the refugees he derides as a "bunch of migrants" in Calais will all descend on the other side of the Channel the minute Britain leaves the EU. The British public deserve better than this. Rather than constant mud-slinging and politicising of the world's biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, we need a frank and honest debate about what is really at stake. Most importantly this should be a positive campaign, one that is fought on hope and not on fear. As we have a seen in Scotland, a referendum won through scare tactics alone risks winning the battle but losing the war.

The voice of business and civil society, from scientists and the police to environmental charities, have a crucial role to play in explaining how being in the EU benefits the British economy and enhances people's everyday lives. All those who believe in Britain's EU membership must not be afraid to speak out and make the positive case why being in Europe makes us more prosperous, stable and secure. Because at its heart this debate is not just about facts and figures, it is about what kind of country we want to be.

The Leave campaigns cannot agree what they believe in. Some want the UK to be an offshore, deregulated tax haven, others advocate a protectionist, mean-hearted country that shuts it doors to the world. As with so many populist movements, from Putin to Trump, they are defined not by what they are for but what they are against. Their failure to come up with a credible vision for our country's future is not patriotic, it is irresponsible.

This leaves the field open to put forward a united vision of Britain's place in Europe and the world. Liberal Democrats are clear what we believe in: an open, inclusive and tolerant nation that stands tall in the world and doesn't hide from it. We are not uncritical of the EU's institutions. Indeed as Liberals, we fiercely believe that power must be devolved to the lowest possible level, empowering communities and individuals wherever possible to make decisions for themselves. But we recognise that staying in Europe is the best way to find the solutions to the problems that don't stop at borders, rather than leaving them to our children and grandchildren. We believe Britain must put itself at the heart of our continent's future and shape a more effective and more accountable Europe, focused on responding to major global challenges we face.

Together in Europe we can build a strong and prosperous future, from pioneering research into life-saving new medicines to tackling climate change and fighting international crime. Together we can provide hope for the desperate and spread the peace we now take for granted to the rest of the world. And together we can show the world a generous, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of. So if you agree then join the Liberal Democrat campaign today, to remain in together, and to stand up for the type of Britain you think we should be.