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The EU – a Financial success or not?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Catalonia, Catalunya, eu citizens, europe-news, spain, The EU
This article is published on: 31st October 2017

31.10.17
Chris Burke | Spectrum IFA Barcelona

What better subject to discuss, than one closest to the heart of someone living and studying in Europe.

Geneva Business School (GBS) in Barcelona, is a leading Business School providing cutting edge, innovative, Swiss quality education on a global scale. Part of their curriculum is to invite guest speakers along to hold a forum/debate on a topical subject, to enhance their knowledge, practice what they are learning and increase their debating skills.

So, where better to format the debate on discussing what the original reasons were for the EU being formed. Easy I hear you say. Ok, well we started discussing putting all the countries together and how that could make them stronger under one currency, against other economies. It was soon apparent that although this seems a sensible idea, did this work for everyone? Greece was debated as already being financially in trouble before it joined the EU, and has continued down that path, but why? When we looked at the Government debt of each country before joining the EU and present day, it’s clear many of the country’s debt has doubled; The UK, Greece, Italy, France to name but a few, but why haven’t others? No one was surprised Germany’s hadn’t, but why hadn’t it? We discussed Germany’s manufacturing capability compared to the other countries; this could well be a valid reason. There was mention of ‘black’ money still prevalent in certain countries, mainly Italy and Greece where in some places you still couldn’t pay by card, only cash. It was well known a few years back the Greek underground had been losing money hand over fist due to passengers not paying. Was there a cultural issue here that was denying the government, in those countries, of more revenue from tax?

Freedom of movement was on everyone’s lips as another good reason for the EU being born. Freedom to move elsewhere, find work, perhaps a new life, career. It was quickly pointed out this didn’t work for everyone, an Italian farmer (highlighted by an Italian student) would not agree this had worked well for him. Of course, you cannot please everyone and there are countries in the EU whose farmers receive subsidies to help.

Access to the common market, so trading made easier for countries in the EU, cheaper and more direct for them to sell within. This making them potentially more competitive than those outside it. This was a strong reason for the EU to be formed.

So there was one more, major reason, that after we discussed what it was, agreed that perhaps this could be the biggest reason for the EU being formed, but is hardly ever brought up. We discussed that during the Brexit negotiations this was hardly ever mentioned as a reason to remain, if it was its press headlines were minimal. When you are part of a team, whether it be a sports team or any other, you have a common reason/goal to make it work. You may have disagreements, but because you all want the same outcome, which benefits you all, you work hard to find a solution. Differences can be put aside, or debated, and there may be a skirmish occasionally but in general, conflict is usually avoided or at least minimal. Stopping wars and keeping the peace was one of the founding reasons for forming the EU, yet it hardly ever gets the status it should deserve.

So, taking all this into account, did we think the EU has been a financial success? Certainly not to everyone, but if you were a consultant brought in to investigate and make a decision, the debaters at Geneva Business School voted marginally it had. Wars cost money, however they can also generate it……

Other key questions asked were:

Where are we economically in the world?
We are in the second longest Bull Run in the history of the stock markets, we certainly aren’t on the bottom run of the ladder in terms of its upward curve, probably not in the middle, how long there is to go is anyone’s guess, but we are probably in the final third.

Government debt are at the highest rates ever, can it be repaid?
No. Even if we had ten more fantastic years on the stock markets, which is highly unlikely, it’s my belief it’s almost impossible to repay these. Looking at debt clocks is frightening and best not to be done!

Bitcoin, good investment or not?

The jury is still out on this, it continues to provide itself as an investment choice. Will it last? Do the bank’s want it to last? Will it be here tomorrow? For the high risk takers it’s a choice, for everyone else it’s too early to tell.

Property, a good investment in Barcelona?
Simply, if you are intending on holding it for a decade or so, and being able to fix the mortgage interest rate for life, it’s hard to advise against it. For anything less, you wouldn’t want all your investments in one asset class.

So, our final thoughts were, on Maslow’s Conscious Competence Model, where did we rate the EU? And the overwhelming answer was:

Conscious Incompetent – that is to say, the EU knows it isn’t working, and is arguably trying to fix it although isn’t sure how. But how much we wonder…….

The fight to keep our EU rights

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, eu citizens, Italy, Residency, Theresa May
This article is published on: 25th September 2017

25.09.17

As Theresa May readied herself in Florence to deliver her BREXIT speech a small but energetic group of British expats gathered in the city to voice their opinions. The group, part of ‘British in Italy’ was lead by Spectrum’s Italian Manager Gareth Horsfall.

Gareth has been instrumental in building the groups membership and organised this peaceful protest in Florence.

The protest was organised to show solidarity for EU citizens in the UK as well as British citizens living in the EU. Gareth explains, “The motivation and reason for such activity is to fight to keep our EU acquired rights…those that could affect our freedom of movement in the future, the right to work in other EU states as an EU citizen, the right to have our qualifications recognised in our current EU state of residence and any that we may subsequently move to, the right to keep our healthcare rights and especially those of a lot of our pensioner clients who rely on it, the right to have our social security contributions taken into account from other EU states and all the interconnected rights that go with these things.”

Outside the impressive 14th century Novella church in the centre of Florence, the protesters were in good voice with many flags and banners, one reading “Denied a vote – Denied a voice”. The usual media circus was in town, and Gareth was delighted to be able to talk to many journalists to throughout the day.

Gareth Horsfall is a member of ‘British in Italy‘ which has been set up to protect and fight for the rights of Italian citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.

The message is simple:
We should be granted all the rights that we have acquired and/or are entitled to before the UK chose to leave the EU.

The objectives are listed below:

  • British in Italy is a group of UK citizens resident in Italy concerned about the effect of Brexit on the many thousands of UK citizens in Italy and the half million or so Italians in the UK
  • Our aim is to ensure that Brexit does not penalise these individuals, all of whom made the decision to move across the Channel in bona fide and relying on their EU right of freedom of movement
  • UK citizens already in Italy and Italians already in the UK should therefore continue to have all the rights they had acquired or were in the process of acquiring while the UK was in the EU
  • We have already lobbied the UK government hard not to take these rights away from EU citizens in the UK

If you have not yet made your presence known, and/or you know someone who hasn’t then feel free to get in touch with the British in Italy group at britsinitaly@gmail.com Your name and contact information will be registered and you will be added to a newsletter mailing list. (Your information will not be shared or used for corporate purposes). Or follow them on Facebook HERE

Horsfall finishes by saying “The UK Government is failing to give an outright guarantee to EU citizens living in the UK and reacting to this the EU is threatening to restrict our own rights. We are all in this together and should fight to stop it. Its not about stopping BREXIT but just about treating people fairly and not ruining peoples lives and potentially pulling families apart.

Gareth was also part of the Exiting the EU Select committee, which met at the House of Commons back in January this year. Gareth was one of four UK citizens living in the EU who represented other UK citizens living in the EU, in Westminster.

EU Citizenship Rights for Brits?

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: eu citizens, Italy
This article is published on: 17th November 2016

17.11.16

The EU Parliament is to discuss the possibility of EU membership for citizens of countries that vote to leave the EU. A proposal was made by an MEP in Luxembourg.

The idea is to guarantee those who want the same rights as full EU citizens, including the right of residence in the EU, to be able to vote in European elections and be represented by an MEP.
I have to admit that the proposal sounds a nice idea but I don’ t see it being accepted.

Human capital will be a big political maneuvering tool in the BREXIT negotiations and if they offered any UK citizen the opportunity to have EU rights then I don’t see how this would aid the UK’s bargaining position. Equally, it may be a incentive for other EU countries to vote to leave as well.

I will follow developments and report them as they arise…

SANCTIONS FOR UNDECLARED ASSETS IN ITALY
This is a subject which I haven’t touched on for some time. What are the penalties for undeclared, and subsequently discovered, assets for residents of Italy?
The penalties for non declaration range between 3% and 15% of the value of the asset, plus any fines for late payment. The percentage is determined by the investigating tax officers depending on the gravity of the misdemeanour.

If you have undeclared money in tax privileged regimes or countries where there is not an adequate exchange of fiscal information then the sanctions are doubled: 6% – 30%, plus fines for non declaration.

This is relevant given the automatic exchange of financial information which is now in force under the OECD Common Reporting Standard.
I know that a number of you have been receiving letters from non ItalIan banks asking you to quote your Tax Identification Numbers (TIN) for reporting purposes. This is your Codice Fiscale for Italian residents. By completing this letter it allows the foreign financial entity to report your information, automatically, to the Italian authorities.