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Why I’m in favour of an independent Scotland

At the end of the televised Salmond-Darling debate I tweeted the following:

With 77 retweets so far, it seems to have struck a chord with some people. It also is an aspect of the independence debate that was only mentioned in passing in the televised clash, but for me it is absolutely central. How is Scotland going to be best governed? is the vital question in the referendum as I see it, and my answer would be it would be better governed from Edinburgh than from London, and hence – if I had a vote – I’d vote YES.

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The best bank for a small business in the UK – with emphasis on the Eurozone

bank-logosI’ve been partner in a small Limited Liability Partnership in the UK since 2009, and since the start getting our banking right has been a bit of a headache. We have a low turnover, but issue between 50 and 70 invoices a year, and many of those are paid from Eurozone countries. Both Jan and I, the partners in the company, travel a lot and are hence heavily reliant on distance banking – we cannot get to branches. Continue Reading

Sorry British Bankers’ Association – British influence in the EU has already fallen off a cliff, and it’s not to do with staff


Gergely Polner (@eurocrat on Twitter) normally knows his stuff about the EU. Sometime spokesperson for the Hungarian Presidency of the EU (still the best social media outreach by Presidency), then head of public affairs for the European Parliament in the UK, and now head of EU affairs for the British Bankers’ Association, he has written a piece entitled “Is British influence in Brussels about to fall off a cliff?” for Euractiv.

Sorry Gergely, but British influence in Brussels has already fallen off a cliff. And it has nothing to do with staffing. It is all to do with the political context of Britain’s EU relationship, and how that has soured since 2010, and especially since David Cameron promised an in-out referendum on the UK’s EU membership in January 2013, with the referendum to take place by 2017. Further cases, like the 2011 veto that stopped nothing, and threatening that the appointment of Juncker would hasten British exit, have not helped either.

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EU enlargement, the UK and immigration – a recap, and a call to move on

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 09.11.12Nick Clegg has today joined the race among UK political parties to sound tough on immigration to the UK from the EU, and Mark Leonard (someone who ought to know better) has written a piece for the Fabian Society advocating that Labour ought to be tough too.

Let’s just quickly recap what happened with EU enlargement, and what it meant for immigration to the UK.

Number of countries joining the EU: 10 (8 Central & Eastern Europe, and Malta and Cyprus)
Population of these countries: 75 million
Old EU Member States that allowed freedom of movement of citizens from these countries: UK, Sweden, Ireland
State of the UK economy then: relatively good
Result: a lot of people move to the UK from the new countries as a result.

Number of countries joining the EU: 2 (RO, BG)
Population of these countries: 27 million
Old EU Member States that allowed freedom of movement of citizens from these countries: none (i.e. all of the old EU-15 Member States imposed transition periods)
State of the UK economy then: less good than in 2004, and by the end of the transition periods in 2014, bad
Result: 60000 move to the UK. Hardly a crisis.

Number of countries joining the EU: 1 (Croatia)
Population of that country: 4.5 million
Old EU Member States that allowed freedom of movement of citizens from these countries: none as far as I am aware, but Croatia is so small I’m not sure anyone is bothered
State of the UK economy then: transition periods end in 2020. We do not know what the UK economy will look like then.
Result: Croatia is so small, and 27 countries will open their borders in 2020, so the UK will not be flooded with Croats.

2020 onwards
Beyond 2020 we do not really know which countries will join when. The countries of the Western Balkans, and Iceland, could join – Serbia (7.1 million), Bosnia (3.8 million), Albania (3 million), Kosovo (1.7 million), Montenegro (0.6 million), Iceland (0.4 million) – that’s a total of 16.6 million. These countries are not going to join en masse, and transition periods of up to 7 years will be imposed by the whole EU-27. So floods of people from this region are unlikely. Turkey is currently going backwards in its efforts to join the EU due to the authoritarianism of Erdoğan, so is out of the picture for a long, long time.

So, here’s an idea for UK politicians: due to the fact that the major reunification of the Europe – the 2004 enlargement – is now complete, the problem of EU migration has largely passed (if indeed it was really ever a problem).

So why not just shut up about it, and just explain that things have moved on?

What does it take for the Commission to take a Schengen complaint seriously?

Back in May I was subjected to the most extraordinary border control identity check at Perpignan station. I have blogged the transcript of the encounter here, and sent this to the European Commission, hoping they see this as non-Schengen compliant. The redacted letter of response from the Commission is here:

schengen-perpignan2Reading this I now come to the conclusion that I do not know what I have to do to make the European Commission take any such complaint seriously. Continue Reading

Targus replacement wheels


Just over three years ago I purchased a Targus TEV001EU Business Roller Notebook Case. The case had good reviews on Amazon and the price was good as well. After two years of frequent use, one wheel on the case broke and the other has worn down to the extent it is unusable (see pictures).

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Price discrimination in car hire Belgium-Germany

I want to rent a car in Brussels for 4 days at the end of August, for a trip to Germany for Rhein on Skates. The round trip will be about 900km, with 2 drivers. We need a small car – Polo or Clio or something like that. I have a German address, and the other driver has a Belgian address.

So first question: book using the Belgian or the German versions of the main car hire websites? Avis BE or DE, Hertz BE or DE, and Europcar BE and DE? Each site deals with residence differently – Europcar allows residence to be set regardless of the landing page you use, while Avis and Hertz default to residence in the country of the domain name of the site.

Having worked that out, what are the prices for 4 days of hire, with 2 drivers? Continue Reading

OKFestival Keynotes Day 2

After the success with the improvised stream yesterday, we’re at it again today! The OKFestival 2014 keynotes now broadcasting live.

Here’s how we’re doing it.