Belfast Telegraph

Britain's 10th spot in corruption table comes with a warning ahead of Brexit

Britain has retained its 10th place ranking in Transparency International's corruption table, but the organisation warned that its reputation would take a hit if standards are weakened after Brexit.

The annual Corruption Perceptions Index gave the United Kingdom a ranking of 81, putting it in line with Germany and Luxembourg, and just steps behind the likes of New Zealand and Denmark, which topped the list with a score of 90.

But Transparency International warned that the UK could fall out of the top 10 if it fails to deliver a promised national Anti-Corruption Strategy, or weakens standards for short-term economic gains following Brexit.

UK executive director Robert Barrington said: "Already, the uncertainty posed by Brexit has the potential to encourage a 'business at any cost' trade strategy; such an approach would be a disaster for UK's long-term reputation as a leading anti-corruption player."

He said a national Anti-Corruption strategy would help address growing disillusionment around politics and concerns about inequality - both of which fuelled the Brexit vote and propelled the rise of "populist strong-man figures" abroad.

The report explained that voters who are "fed up" with "empty assurances" to tackle corruption are turning to populist politicians promising to change the system, but who end up introducing even worse regimes.

Autocratic and populist leaders often put democracy in jeopardy by cracking down on civil society, limiting press freedom and weakening independence of the courts, the organisation said.

It pointed to index scores for Hungary and Turkey - which have seen a rise of autocratic leaders Viktor Orban and Recep Tayyip Erdogan - drop to scores of 48 and 41, respectively.

Meanwhile, Argentina - which ended 12 years of populist rule by electing centrist Mauricio Macri in 2015 - saw its score rise to 36 from 32.

While the US was given a score of 74, Transparency International researcher Finn Heinrich said there were worrying signs of populism in Donald Trump's presidential victory.

"What we see particularly in the United States are the first signs of a person coming on board on a "drain the swamp" agenda (and) betraying that agenda already...with the nepotism and the appointments, with putting people in his cabinet who have conflicts of interests on various levels," Mr Heinrich told the Press Association.

"So obviously it is too early to tell, but if you look at other populist leaders ... the track record of them doing what they promised is dismal."

The organisation is now "urgently" calling for "deep-rooted systemic reforms" across the globe which address a growing imbalance of power and wealth, empowers citizens to stop widespread impunity for corruption, holds authorities to account and gives people a "real say" in decisions affecting day-to-day life.

Transparency International says these reforms must include public registries that disclose company ownership, and penalties for professionals who help move corrupt money across borders.

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