A coalition of UK accountants has come together under the banner ‘Count Me Out’ to urge voters to preserve the integrity of British financial reporting and taxation by voting to leave the European Union.
According to Count Me Out co-founder Nigel Price-Davies, the EU referendum presents a chance to fight back against the many wrongs being done to the UK profession by interventionist European regulation.
“Membership of EU has shackled Britain to a crusade to impose fair value accounting and other fashionable, but wrong-headed ideas about financial reporting,” said Price-Davies in an exclusive interview with AccountingWEB.
“Lord Lawson spoke passionately about the damage done to the UK during the financial crisis because international accounting standards heightened volatility in reporting bank asset values. The whole objective of the IASB is to create a body that is not accountable to any government - and the EU has merely endorsed that stance,” said Price-Davies.
“Now the powers that be are trying to impose the same idiocies on ordinary companies: forcing more complexity, more cost and more red tape on businesses that have been perfectly happy to use British accounting standards for a generation.”
Demise of ‘much loved’ reporting standard
For Price-Davies, the crux of the campaign lies in the fate of FRSSE, the financial reporting standard for smaller entities. First formulated in the late 1990s, FRSSE has become “much loved” among small businesses and the accountants who serve them, thanks to the less onerous reporting requirements it places on small businesses.
But convergence with international standards means that FRSSE will be booted unceremoniously into touch from 1 January next year, when small entities will have to start using FRS 105, a cut-down version of new UK GAAP that nevertheless introduces many of the concepts and complications enshrined in the full set of international financial reporting standards.
According to the Count Me Out campaigners, June’s EU vote offers a last chance to beat the switch and preserve UK GAAP as is.
“When, as finance professionals, we adopt a debits and credits-based assessment of the European issue, it becomes clear that the costs outweigh the benefits,” Price-Davies said. “We think it’s time the accounting profession spoke up to bring a clear-headed, objective perspective to the debate.”
Count Me Out
In March, Price-Davies joined forces with former UKIP tax policy adviser Basil de Bretagne to set up Count Me Out, which currently includes a membership of “literally dozens” of accounting professionals.
According to de Bretagne, a leave vote means the UK would be able to opt out of Europe’s State Aid restrictions - for example those that might stop the government from offering direct support to the British steel industry. “We can’t spend our own bloody money,” said de Bretagne, speaking to AccountingWEB from his office in Kent. “We’re sending good money after bad when instead we could be helping British industry.”
De Bretagne left UKIP because of what he terms “creative differences” with its leaders, who were sceptical of the maverick tax guru’s ideas.
De Bretagne is a noted supporter of a stiff tariff on European products, particularly foodstuffs like brioche and Rioja. “This is Britain,” said De Bretagne. “We have our native foods and industries and these should take priority.”
He continued, “And Europeans can keep their flat pack furniture, too. These Scandinavians are making us assemble our own furniture - it’s modern slavery.”
According to De Bretagne, his EU antipathy is historical. “We spent centuries fighting these continentals, and now they get to tell us what to do. They couldn’t invade us by force, so they’ve invaded us through regulation. Elizabeth I must be turning in her grave.
“I want to return to the Britain of old, a Britain that was part of a culturally and politically fractured Europe where distrust and absolute monarchies reigned. Enough of this ‘buddy, buddy’. Save our FRSSE, save our United Kingdom.”