The Money Men 

💰 Many of the men who promoted Brexit own more wealth than most of us could imagine. These include well-known names such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Arron Banks.  Others you may never have heard of, such as Crispin Odey, Jim Mellon and Richard Tice. There were some working behind the scenes who were very familiar with the darkest corners of tax evasion and money laundering, such as the convicted fraudster George Cottrell.

It’s become a bit of a cliche to suggest that financial markets operate more like a casino than a bank. The EU referendum campaign illustrated this well, as very rich people made high-stakes bets on our country’s future.

Hedge funds make money by betting on economic events, and they hit the big time during the turbulence caused by the 2008 financial crisis. EU policies designed to restore stability to financial markets, such as the 2012 Short Selling Regulation, are anathema to this sort of investor.

One method of making money this way is to predict a serious loss and then put a punt against it happening. This can include betting against currencies, as George Soros did when sterling was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

Hedge funds, including the one run by Crispin Odey, made some big wins by betting on the damage Brexit would do to the pound and UK stock markets. Some have lost significant value since the Brexit vote, but if the UK actually leaves the EU the ensuing volatility will create excellent conditions for them to roll their dice again (indeed, such is financial engineering that you don’t even need to bet on something going in a particular direction, you can also bet that uncertainty itself will go up or down).

Once you have more money than you can possibly spend, accumulating more ceases to be about consumption and becomes about power. This explains why some ultra-wealthy men try to avoid taxes – they see it as an insult to their absolute right to do what they like with their money.

This seems to have been a strong motivation for many of those driving the Brexit campaign. The complex web of finance stretching between the City and the British Overseas Territories gives them easy access to many of the world’s most secretive tax havens. The EU is making strides to improve laws to counter money-laundering and tax avoidance, laws which have been fought tooth and nail by British Tories. Although Philip Hammond has rowed back on his earlier suggestion that the UK would relax tax laws after Brexit, it’s clear that this is precisely the agenda for many of the Bad Boys.

Leaks of secret documents in the so-called Panama and Paradise Papers show that many Brexiters are very much at home with the dark arts of tax avoidance. Arron Banks favours tax havens including the Isle of Man, Gibraltar and the British Virgin Islands. Jacob Rees-Mogg‘s investment fund is managed via subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands and Singapore. Lord Ashcroft achieved notoriety through exploiting the UK’s non-dom tax status and also featured prominently in the Paradise Papers.

For many of these men, taxes are for the little people. They are deeply irritated by EU laws to ensure greater transparency and to prevent money laundering and tax-dodging. They are seeking a country in which they can take back unimpeded control of their wealth, and their intention is to turn Brexit Britain into this country.

These men include: