First out was Christian (Asterix) Clavier. He decamped to London in October. Now, Gérard (Obelix) Depardieu has followed. He’s picked Belgium. Although unvanquished by Caesar’s legions, the two heroes of Gaul have been put to flight by François Hollande’s draconian 75 per cent top marginal income tax rate, increased capital gains tax and enhanced wealth tax. Didier Reynders, Belgium’s foreign minister, stirred the pot nicely yesterday by saying that his country will welcome anyone from France who wants to follow Depardieu in escaping higher taxes. In an interview with Le Figaro, Reynders said that France has no one else to blame for the exile of its stars. The country, he says, should “accept the consequences” of the government’s policies, he observed.
That same pot had been brought to the boil by Le Journal du Dimanche on Sunday, when it published a blistering letter by Depardieu to Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French Prime Minister, who had contemptuously called the actor “a pathetic loser”.
“I was born in 1948,” wrote Depardieu. “I started working aged 14, as a printer, as a warehouseman, then as an actor, and I’ve always paid my taxes.” Over 45 years, Depardieu said, he had paid 145 million euro in tax, and to this day employs 80 people. Last year he paid taxes amounting to 85 per cent of his income. “I am neither worthy of pity nor admirable, but I shall not be called ‘pathetic’,” he concluded, saying that he was sending back his French passport.
All of this is good news for Belgium, which has not had the best press of late and it will do wonders for the country’s morale as the flow of migrants has been rather one-way (towards France) in the past. Indeed, Rainy Day once knew a minor Belgian actor who expended enormous energy and effort into ridding himself of his national identity so that he could become French. He remained a minor Belgian actor, however. Gérard Depardieu may yet become a major Belgian actor.