| LONDON, April 25
LONDON, April 25 Britain may lose its challenge
to stop plans by 11 euro zone countries to tax financial
transactions when the European Union's top court rules next
week, lawyers said on Thursday.
Britain is challenging an EU decision allowing the group of
EU members to push ahead with their plans to tax stock, bond and
derivatives trades to help make banks pay for the public money
they received in the 2007-09 financial crisis.
Britain says the tax would unfairly impinge on its markets,
which are the largest in the 28-country bloc. It would also
force Britain to collect a tax from which it will not benefit.
It is one of several UK challenges to planned or approved
rules from Brussels as Britain tries to stop further EU
centralisation in financial services. The tax is backed by
France and Germany along with nine other countries.
The ruling, due at 0730 GMT on April 30, comes just ahead of
elections for the European Parliament in May.
Britain lodged the challenge at the Luxembourg court last
year but a ruling was not expected until 2015.
A spokesman for the ECJ said the court has used its
discretion not to hold a hearing or seek views from an adviser
first, thereby substantially shortening the time frame.
"It's normal process. It has not been expedited," the
There was no agreement among the bloc's 28 members for a
pan-EU tax, forcing the 11 countries to move ahead under a
rarely used procedure known as enhanced cooperation.
Lawyers said the speedy ruling probably means that Britain's
challenge has not been successful.
"The fact that the court is willing to rule without a
hearing or an opinion from its adviser could mean that it will
take a preliminary point and rule that the UK challenge is
premature," said Alexandria Carr, a financial services lawyer
with Mayer Brown.
"A ruling that the UK's challenge is premature would not
prevent the UK later challenging any legislation eventually
adopted by the 11 countries to tax transactions," Carr said.
But without its early challenge, Britain would risk being
told that a challenge to the subsequent legislation was too
late, she added.
Elements of the planned tax, as originally conceived, have
already been hit by legal doubts when lawyers for EU states said
its reach into non-participating countries could be illegal.
The tax, if agreed in detail, is likely to be phased in over
time, by different assets and at a lower rate than conceived
thereby raising much less than the 35 billion euros ($48.37
billion) annually that its backers had hoped for.
"The legal challenge is unlikely to derail negotiations as
there is strong political backing in key member states," said
Florian Lechner, a tax partner at Linklaters law firm.
"Whilst the timetable for implementation may be delayed, it
looks like it may well be driven forward, despite ongoing
concerns about the impact on financial markets," Lechner said.
($1 = 0.7236 Euros)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)