‘What a sad, symbolic act of desertion’: Dan Hyde on Britain’s wealthiest man, Brexiteer Sir Jim Ratcliffe, leaving the UK and taking his billions to Monaco

 August 10, 2018

Sir Jim Ratcliffe
Sir Jim, Britain’s richest man with a £21billion fortune to his name, is said to be taking his money to Monaco - a known tax haven / Photo via Daily Mail


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For someone who displayed such moral fortitude in voting to take Britain out of the EU, how sad that Sir Jim Ratcliffe feels no sense of patriotic duty when it comes to paying taxes in this country.

Sir Jim, Britain’s richest man with a £21billion fortune to his name, may be known in business circles for shying away from the public gaze and eschewing the sort of stunts that turned fellow business magnates Lord Sugar and Sir Richard Branson into household names.

But the 65-year-old must have known how damaging it would be to flee to Monaco at the height of the Brexit negotiations.

Whatever his true reasons for leaving, his move will be seized on by Remainers as a symbolic act of desertion.

What a stark contrast with Peter Hargreaves, another high-profile billionaire supporter of Brexit within the business community.

The founder of the financial giant Hargreaves-Lansdowne has always been proud of paying his taxes here, and this week showed his belief in Britain by saying he would bet his entire fortune that opting for a no-deal Brexit would be this country’s best option.

Although Sir Jim has declined to comment – a spokesman for his company said only that it was a ‘personal matter’ – his choice of destination speaks volumes.

Monaco is Europe’s premier tax haven, already home to a soulless list of mega-rich British celebrities who knowingly choose to pay less than they could and should towards schools, roads and hospitals in the country of their birth.

Such figures are presented, in the cartoonish rhetoric of the Left, as a damning indictment of the capitalist system – proof that the super-rich are an exploitative, out-of-touch elite with no regard for ordinary people and no gratitude for the opportunities given them in the United Kingdom.

The tragedy is that Sir Jim Ratcliffe ought to be a shining example of all that is best about aspiration.

As a council house boy who grew up to be Britain’s richest man, he embodied the meritocratic ideals of a system that empowers people, no matter how lowly their background, to make the best of their lives.

Born to a joiner and office worker in 1952 in Failsworth, on the outskirts of Manchester, Ratcliffe spent the first three years of his life in a council house.

He went on to attend Beverley Grammar School in East Riding, after the family moved to Yorkshire.

In the Seventies, he accepted a place at the University of Birmingham, where he studied chemical engineering. That degree – in those days paid for entirely by the taxpayer, of course – would be his ticket to vast riches.

By 1992, Ratcliffe had remortgaged his house to lead a buyout of British Petroleum’s chemicals business.

From there, he would go on to found Ineos, the chemicals giant where he remains chairman and chief executive.

As it has grown into a sprawling empire, the company, which has an annual turnover of about £45 billion, has become a major UK employer with more than 10,000 British staff.

One wonders quite what they will make of all this as they dutifully pay every penny in tax to the Exchequer.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe

In 2010, Ratclifee spectacularly fell out with the then Labour government over a £350million VAT bill that Ineos was due to pay HM Revenue & Customs / Photo via Daily Mail

Wise old heads among Sir Jim’s staff may be less surprised by his plans.

After all, this isn’t the business mogul’s first run-in with the tax authorities.

In 2010, he spectacularly fell out with the then Labour government over a £350million VAT bill that Ineos was due to pay HM Revenue & Customs.

Sir Jim asked if the payment could be delayed six months, but was refused. His reaction was ruthless, taking the company headquarters to Switzerland, another famously low-tax regime, to save Ineos a reported £100million a year.

He returned to set up a UK headquarters in Knightsbridge – and take up residence in affluent Chelsea – in 2016, but only after the Tories had moved to slash corporation tax from 28 per cent to 20 per cent.

Sir Jim is an astonishingly successful entrepreneur whose business acumen and risk-taking has brought much good to this country.

He deserves to be a wealthy man, but when you have £21billion, do you really need to kiss goodbye to your own country just to make sure your pockets stay full to bursting?

Originally published by Dan Hyde at Daily Mail


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