One of the EU’s great recent achievements is abolishing mobile roaming charges.

It used to be that when crossing a border within the EU, you’d see the savvy travelers swapping their PAYG SIM cards, while the not-so-astute contract customers would absorb horrendous roaming charges (which they’d only notice on their bills at the end of the month). Continue reading “Roaming”

We are not only the 48%

Many a turning point in history has been decided by a margin smaller than 48%. For instance, the American referendum to use German as their official language (instead of English) was defeated by a narrower margin; and the French referendum to keep the Franc (instead of adopt the Euro) was defeated by a narrower margin. But:- Continue reading “We are not only the 48%”

The Cambridge Brexit Report (published 28’th April 2017)

The Cambridge Brexit Report is a collaboration between Cambridge for Europethe Cambridge University European Society, The Wilberforce Society, Polygeia, and Cambridge Stays. It was commissioned by Daniel Zeichner MP, and is the second part of a project that began with a Conference on 24 February, entitled Cambridge and Brexit: Discussing our Future. This Conference brought together more than 100 Cambridge community members across the political spectrum in a series of presentations and discussions about the implications of Brexit on various sectors. Both the Conference and the Report seek to understand how we can work together in mapping the way forward for Britain after Brexit, and integrate both local and national perspectives.

The Cambridge Brexit Report consists of twelve chapters, covering the Economy, Trade and Business, the Pharmaceutical Industry, Creative Industries, Agriculture, Universities and Research, Freedom of Movement and Immigration, the Constitution, Devolution and the Regions, Human Rights, the Environment, and the NHS. Each has its own approach, structure, and conclusions.


These two recommendations cut across all chapters:

  1. The vote to leave the European Union has created uncertainty as to the United Kingdom’s future; all should be done to dispel such uncertainty as soon as possible, for it proves damaging to business, investment plans, research projects, life decisions, etc.
  2. Brexit will be a momentous transition for the United Kingdom, opening up a range of opportunities in a number of fields. This Report puts forward the concerns, hopes, and recommendations of the Greater Cambridge community; other communities across the country should be offered a similar opportunity to have their say. What was achieved by a team of volunteers in Cambridge could easily be achieved by local and central government on a larger scale; we therefore recommend that the Government launch public consultations in cities and towns all over the UK, and rely on the resulting reports to inform its Brexit negotiations and policies.

The Cambridge Brexit Report

Introduction & Executive Summary

Chapter I: The Economy

Chapter II: Trade and Business

Chapter III: The Pharmaceutical Industry

Chapter IV: Creative Industries

Chapter V: Agriculture

Chapter VI: Universities and Research

Chapter VII: Freedom of Movement and Immigration

Chapter VIII: The Constitution

Chapter IX: Devolution and the Regions

Chapter X: Human Rights

Chapter XI: The Environment & Climate Change

Chapter XII: The NHS


Chlorinated chicken and more….

Don’t forget, imports from the USA could also mean:-

  • Beef washed in ammonia (american pink slime)
  • Genetically modified food
  • Meat products laced with antibiotics
  • Swine flu (from battery pigs)
  • Flawed drugs testing (FDA)
  • Contaminated blood & blood products
  • Fake Whisky (Jack Daniels could wipe-out our Scottish industry)
  • Fake French Wines from California, labelled “produit de E-U
  • Aggressive marketing (MLM – Pyramid selling – Ponzi schemes)
  • Litigation culture
  • High CO2 emission manufactured goods (outside Paris accord)
  • 3-D printed guns that can kill, but cannot be detected
  • Erosion of personal privacy

And Sajjad Karim has a good blog here of how negotiations with Donald Trump are likely to go: Hey Brexiteers – watch out Liam Fox! – The European public (especially UK citizens) did not want TTIP; we’re unlikely to change our mind now.

Seems the Tories now agree:

Brexit could be good for little fishes

Strolling along the quiet fishing quay at Scheveningen, I met an old fisherman who said he hoped Brexit would not happen because then they would not be able to fish in English waters. – He himself had already given up fishing and become a lorry driver instead. The Scheveningen commercial fishing fleet consists of about 8 substantial ships (one of them sailing under a German flag), each of which I measured out as typically 70 to 90 meters long. Only a few weeks before they had taken part in a protest at sea against other fleets who had been catching under-size fish. Their slogan: “give little fishes a second chance”

The North Sea is divided according to the 12 Mile coastal zone which is protected by the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 and out of which all foreign fishermen are excluded unless given a special license (very few have this license). Then it is divided by the mid-way line in lieu of the 200 Mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is protected by the United Nations. The continental half of the North Sea is shared by Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France. (

The Dutch fishing industry supports about 600 businesses; employs a crew of 2,000 and is worth about 1 Billion Euro per annum. They mainly fish for Plaice, Sole and Herring. (Herring is as important to the Dutch culture and national identity as is say Grouse or Haggis is to Scotland; they even have a national day to mark the start of the Herring season.) – On the other hand, the British preference is for Haddock and Cod. (Think of how important “Fish & Chips” is to our culture and national identity.)

The eight continental fishing lands get about one third of their catch from the British zone; with the Dutch taking 80% of their Herring, 60% of their Mackerel and 35% of their Plaice from the Western half of the North Sea.  (Gerard van Balsfoort, chairman European Fisheries Alliance: Loosing these sources will hit the Dutch fishing industries hard. One can expect lay-offs, business closures and ships being de-commissioned. (And even with the best will in the world, compensation will be demanded.) – But one can also expect losses on the English side as they lose access to Haddock and Cod which may be in the Eastern Sector.  This can only be good news for the fish as the Herring learn to hide in the West and the Cod learn to hide in the East! – But I cannot imagine any fisherman allowing this situation to last for long. Besides, Dutch Fishermen have been granted Freedom of the City of London in perpetuity for their generous act of feeding Londoners in the havoc that followed the great fire of 1666. This freedom entitles them to land their catch in London for all eternity.

What are our Energy Futures?

Entering the common Electricity & Energy Market is a slow process taking many steps; for instance, it took two decades to agree the European Standard Colour Code for Electricity Wiring. We are now in mid-leap for another step and may well have to change direction in mid-air. The step I am talking about is agreeing the domestic supply voltage.

The Low Voltage Directive, 2014/35/EU, stipulated that the supply should be 230 Volts ±6%. For countries that had previously been on 220 Volts, the transition was easy: legacy equipment had its life expectancy shortened, and replacement products would be better performing. The consumer did not notice the change and everyone wins. But for us, going from 240 down to 230 Volts, it’s not been easy. If we change, life expectancy of legacy products goes up, but performance goes down. If we don’t change, life expectancy of new products will go down. The EU passed Standard EN50160 which allows our supply Voltage to be 230 +10%/-6%. This does not alter the technical reality at all, it just allows European Appliance Manufacturers to sell into the UK. We still have a 240 Volt supply.

Now what happens when you go to the shops to buy “white goods” or Electricity Appliances? The appliance is probably labelled 220-240 Volts, which is a lie, as it is most likely designed to operate at 230 Volts. You either have to shop around for a product specifically designed for the UK market, which is shrinking in relative terms and probably only satisfied by the more expensive high-end products. Or you have to accept market reality, with the caveat that the product will burn-out sooner than expected.

Keith Taylor, our Green MEP, is acutely aware of this problem and suggests complaining to one’s Energy Supplier, the Energy Ombudsman or the Citizens Advice Bureau whenever an appliance bought since 2014 burns-out. (Though I somehow doubt that any of them could be persuaded to take the matter seriously)

This is not the only problem. Energy Companies force, what is often significantly more than 240 Volts, into an increasing number of devices designed to take 230 Volts they need more Capacity. Increased Capacity means more Power Stations; and the difference between accepting the Low Voltage Directive (without the caveats provided by the Standard) and not; amounts to several Power Stations at least the size of Hinkley Point. In other words, if we switched to 230 Volts along with the rest of Europe, we would not need to invest in Hinkley Point.

Power Stations need raw fuel, and Nuclear Power Stations need fissile material. Just one cold winter of fuel starvation and the politics will quickly turn very nasty. (Just think of the real story behind Iraq, Afghanistan and Pearl Harbour). The EU is there to ensure equitable access to raw fuel for all members; and the importance of this job should not be under-estimated.

Nuclear Safety is another issue. The greatest threat to our Nuclear Safety here in Kent is the giant old and run-down Nuclear Power Station at Dunkirk. Power Stations like this typically have an incident somewhere in the world once every three years, and the last ones at Dunkirk where in 2006, 2007 & 2009. – How long will it be before we have a Chernobyl or Fukushima on our doorstep? As an EU member, we are entitled to over-site of the safety at here; but if we leaves, what guarantees do we have?

The question is. If we leave the EU, will we continue with a switch to 230 Volts or will we stay as we are? Will the EU rescind EN50160 in order to improve standards, but making EU products less suitable for our market? Will manufacturers step up to fill our relative declining market? And, will we remain a member of EURATOM? (Theresa May wants us to leave).

First ever case of cyber cooperation at EU level

As of Friday 12 May 2017, multiple variants of a ransomware named WannaCry have been spreading globally, affecting hundreds of thousands of users, organizations, including users in the European Union. It is understood that the cyber attack is focussed on Microsoft Windows based operating systems.

Udo HELMBRECHT, Executive Director of ENISA, said “as the European Cybersecurity Agency, we are closely monitoring the situation and working around the clock with our stakeholders to ensure the security of European citizens and businesses, and the stability of the Digital Single Market. We are reporting on the evolution of the attacks to the European Commission and liaising with our partners in the European Union CSIRT Network”.

ENISA and several European Member States are currently working together to assess the situation at European level.  A dedicated taskforce has been set up at ENISA to support what is the first ever case of cyber cooperation at EU level in that the EU Standard Operating Procedures, developed by ENISA and the Member States, are currently being used to this end.

What makes this event unusual is that this attack impacted many organisations across the world in short period of time. Recent estimates, at this point in time, suggest that approximately 190,000 computers in over 150 countries have been affected. European Critical infrastructure operators (health, energy, transport, finance and telecoms), manufacturers and service providers have been affected.

This malware also affected computers used for dedicated tasks such as robotics, information display systems or medical scanners. A number of car manufacturing plants in the UK, France, Romania and Slovenia have already indicated that their production lines are affected by this malware.

The ransomware prevents access by encrypting multiple common file types such as documents, images and videos, asks for a ransom and distributes automatically. The key characteristic of this attack is a fast propagation leveraging a known critical vulnerability affecting Microsoft Windows systems, exploited by the ransomware without user interaction.

ENISA understands that at this point in time users who are using the latest version of the windows operating system and have their software up to date are not affected by this attack.

Users affected by ransomware are generally presented with a message on the screen indicating that their computer systems and or files have been blocked and that the files will be unblocked if a ransom is paid.

Payment is often requested to be made using bitcoin as an attempt to effect a money transfer in an anonymous way.

This type of cyber-attack does not generally involve the stealing of personal data.

The compromise can be displayed in a number of ways including

  • Not being able to access your files
  • Access to certain operational programs being blocked

Analysis of the malware by ENISA, indicates that different encryption keys are generated for different files. In this regard the malware is relatively sophisticated. ENISA’s experts continue to analyse the ransomware to advise Member States in order to raise awareness of this particular case.

Ransomware attacks are generally successful when an internet user opens an email with an attachment containing malware. Other methods involve a web users visiting a compromised web site where activating a link on the web site can result in malware being downloaded onto the user’s computer.

In this particular case the infection vector involves targeting vulnerable computers with identified open ports. No action was required by the user to become infected.

ENISA recommendations

If your systems have not been hit by the ransomware, you are recommended to apply the following actions as soon as possible:

  • Back-up your files
  • Patch your system with the latest Microsoft’s patch
  • Update your Antivirus to the latest version
  • Consider adding a rule on your router or firewall to block incoming traffic to ports that are not necessary.

As with all types of security there is no guarantee and users are recommended to follow best practice to minimise the risk of attack.

Users are advised that payment of the ransom does not guarantee that the user will receive the code to decrypt their files or that their computers will be restored to its proper function. Affected users are advised to seek expert assistance and to contact law enforcement personnel to report the crime.

For more information:

Check out ENISA’s technical note: WannaCry Ransomware Outburst

Lessons from History

A time of war and a time for peace – These words, made famous by the Byrds in their 7-single: “Turn! Turn! Turn!” came straight from Ecclesiastes 3:8, but are remarkable similar to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” 3:17(1) which says: He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

Sun Tzu wrote this during the Warring States period of Chinese history (403BC-221BC) which ended up with the creation of the earliest Civilization State known to man. We have had our fighting, now is the time for peace. The European Union is Churchill’s unfinished business; indeed, he was one of the first to call for the creation of a ‘United States of Europe’ (given in his speech to the University of Zürich in 1946). – But, how does China look 2,200 years later? They have gone through periods of world exploration & trade, invasion, isolationism, imperialism, communism and back to world trade with astronomic growth; but they still stayed together. They have one language, one army, one currency, one identity – but still have no free trade agreement (between their provinces). They are still extremely sensitive about managing separatism and dissent, just think of: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet & the Dalai Lama, Ai Weiwei, the Hui & Uyghur. – The “project” of unifying Europe is not a short-term project. We can expect setbacks and disillusionment during the first 10 or 100 years of peace; we must look to the next 1,000 or 10,000 years. Think of General Patton setting the course of history for the next 1,000 years; or the Japanese cry of banzai – “may your dynasty reign for 10,000 years”. These are the long-term visionaries.

The Pound, the Pfund and the Livra – These are various names for Europe’s first single currency set-up by Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire in the 8’th Century; except, in England, King Offa set-up a parallel but equivalent system. The Pound (Value) was made up of 120 silver dinars minted by the Caliphate of Baghdad and stacked as a tower; The Pound (Mass) was defined by the weight of this tower. (A dinar was therefore worth two pennies.) – The symbol £ or the abbreviation lb remind us of the common European standard; and the 12 sides of the new coin remind us of its Islamic roots. – Punishment for clipping (the medieval equivalent of quantitative easing) was amputation of the right hand; more rigorous enforcement by the English may well be why the Pound sterling is more valuable than say the Lira is today. We cannot say that anyone is more supportive than England of a common European currency. – However, it is worth remembering that it is thanks to sharia law and the Caliphate of Baghdad that we’ve got to where we are today.

The Napoleonic Wars – Europe’s history is full of inevitable twists and turns, because the continent is criss-crossed by rivers and mountains that thwart communication, prevent integration and sometimes helped or often hindered trade and military action. (Even late-starter America has surged ahead of us with the help of its Great Plains, Great Lakes and navigable Mississippi.) – But one story is interesting: During the early 19’th Century when Mercantilism and the Guilds (protectionism) where all the rage; Napoleon set-up the Continental System of European protectionism; partly in response to the rise of England as a great sea power; effectively trying to blockade British trade with Europe. He brought Russia into the Continental System by getting them to sign the Treaty of Tilsit. – St. Petersburg society was not impressed; many of whom where Anglophiles, and avid readers of Adam Smith and his new theories of free-trade. The Tilsit Treaty had a devastating effect on Russia, which depended on Britain for trade. Merchants found themselves in abject poverty and the value of the ruble collapsed. – Eventually, Russia broke ranks by allowing “neutral” (British) Ships to use their ports for Export purposes (nobody questioned what they were carrying on the inbound journey). Ignoring the Tilsit Treaty contributed to the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Russian retaliation, the occupation of Paris and the subsequent demise of Napoleon. – Wellington survived Waterloo and spent the next four decades putting a British “spin” on events; but it’s interesting to remember the struggle between protectionism and free trade that lay at the heart of the Napoleonic Wars.

Rise of despotic powers – The rise and fall of the German Third Reich can be divided into three phases: 1) Winning the populist vote in July 1932 on a Nationalist anti-Marxist ticket; 2) consolidating power with the Enabling Act 23 March 1933 which gave the chancellor the right to enact laws without consulting parliament or even limited by the constitution; 3) leaving the world community, in October 1933 Germany withdrew from the League of Nations – eventually democracy could only be restored by external forces. – The rise and fall of South Africa’s Apartheid government can be divided into three phases: 1) Winning the populist vote in June 1948 on a Nationalist and anti-Integration ticket; 2) consolidating power with the Senate Act No 53 which effectively packed the senate with political appointees; 3) leaving the world community, on 31 May 1961 South Africa withdrew from the British Commonwealth in order to become a Republic – eventually democracy could only be restored by external pressure. – What is happening in Britain today: 1) UKIP won the populist vote in the European Parliament on 22 May 2014 on a Nationalist and anti-EU ticket; 2) consolidation of power with the House of Lords Act 1999 excluded hereditary peers, making room for even more political appointees; 3) on 27 March 2017 Theresa May signed the Article 50 notification letter that we would leave the European Union? The amazing thing is that in all cases, a large section of the voting population believed that their government was doing the right thing. Where will this all end?

History is strange and can too easily be interpreted superficially and with an inevitable bias. Why has Europe tried so hard to unite and failed every time? And what is different this time? –

  1. Firstly, everyone must have access to the sea no matter what (we are fortunate in this regard and may not understand others predicament): Russia to the Black Sea; Northern Europe and the Nordic countries through the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap (which NATO was set-up to deny); the Black Sea countries through the Bosphorus & Dardanelles (deniable by Turkey); the Mediterranean countries through Gibraltar (deniable by the UK); and all through Suez (snatched by Egypt); Brussels is a Sea Port; and even Switzerland has a Navy. We’re in a scrum with our hands at each others throats.
  2. Secondly, everyone needs to be able to be self-sufficient: as an agricultural society, we used to have all we needed, but since we have industrialized, we discover that there are always certain things that we need and that we don’t have. (Russia has no lead, Germany has no nickel, France has no tea, the Low Countries have no mountains, etc.) But working together our chances of survival are better. This translates into things like Food Security, Environment Protection, Climate Change and Population Control; which are best tackled as Europe-wide problems with Europe-wide solutions.
  3. Thirdly, the world is very different now to how it was in the past: our coal mines are exhausted, North Sea oil is coming to an end; we are no longer an Empire with a captive market; we have a tunnel across the Channel and a tunnel through the Alps; we have superb air travel and an integrated railway network right across Europe. We have instant communication by broadcast media, telephone and the internet. Even language barriers are crumbling with increased education and automated translation tools. This stronger infrastructure also gives us improved stability, not only currency stability but also in supply and demand of all sorts of commodities, though we still have a long way to go to reap the full benefits. Stronger communications can also give us better government.
  4. Fourthly, we are living in the age of the Civilization State (the Nation State will soon be as dead as the City State became with the industrial revolution). Great Empires like China, the USA, India, Russia and the Arab world will increasingly be able to push us around. On our own, we’ll be blown about like a reed in the wind; only by standing together with Europe will we be able to maintain our own true identity.
  5. Fifthly is the “threat” of Globalization: issues like Internet Protection (child porn, snuff movies & Jihad recruitment), Tax Evasion (by multi-nationals) and International Crime & Terrorism are far too big for any one country to tackle on its own, but by co-operation across Europe, we stand a far better chance. On the other hand, if you are interested in the “opportunities” of Globalization, notice how the big Technology Companies are all based in California or China. A Unicorn is a company with an IPO of over $1 Billion; how many Unicorns do we have in the UK? Many manufacturing companies are already giving the UK a miss, because it is too small an entity on its own.

With the capabilities of niche products, “Big Data” and extreme industrial leverage businesses are looking towards markets in excess of 100 million; with its 750 million consumers, Europe is just about interesting for industry. However, Adam Smith and the concepts of free-trade are being seriously questioned as we start to experience the limits of growth. We need new economic solutions for a new world future; it’s a common problem, and working within Europe can help.

Timetable leading up to the General Election

  • 3 May at 00:01 – Parliament will be dissolved; any business such as open petitions will be closed prematurely.
  • 4 May at 22:00 – Voting for Kent County Council closes.
  • 11 May at 16:00 – Deadline for nomination as a candidate.
  • 22 May – Last chance to register to vote. You may register on-line by using – this applies to people resident abroad as well. Special conditions apply to Crown Servants, British Council Employees, the Armed Services, Northern Ireland and Welsh speakers; but all may be accessed from this page.
  • 8 June – General Election. All votes, including postal votes must be received by 22:00.

The full timetable as supplied by the Electoral Commission is here:-

Event Working days before poll (deadline if not midnight) Date (deadline if not midnight)
Dissolution of Parliament 25 days Wednesday 3 May
Receipt of writ 24 days Thursday 4 May
Publication of notice of election Not later than 22 days (4pm) Not later than 4pm on Monday 8 May
Delivery of nomination papers From the day after the publication of the notice of election until the sixth day after the date of dissolution Between 10am and 4pm on any working day after publication of notice of election until 4pm on Thursday 11 May
Deadline for delivery of nomination papers 19 days (4pm) 4pm on Thursday 11 May
Deadline for withdrawals of nomination 19 days (4pm) 4pm on Thursday 11 May
Making objections to nomination papers


(except for objections on the grounds that an individual candidate may be disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1981 – see Commission guidance)

On 19 days (10am to 5pm), subject to the following:


Between 10 am – 12 noon objections can be made to all delivered nominations


Between 12 noon and 5pm objections can only be made to nominations delivered after 4pm, 20 days before the poll





Between 10am and 12 noon on Thursday 11 May objections can be made to all delivered nominations


Between 12 noon and 5pm on Thursday 11 May objections can only be made to nominations delivered after 4pm on Wednesday 10 May

Deadline for the notification of appointment of election agent 19 days (4pm) 4pm on Thursday 11 May
Publication of statement of persons nominated, including notice of poll and situation of polling stations If no objections: on 19 days (at 5pm)


If objection(s) are made: Not before objection(s) are disposed of but not later than 18 days (4pm)

If no objections: at 5pm on Thursday 11 May


Objection(s) made: not before objection(s) are disposed of but not later than 4pm on Friday 12 May

Publication of first interim election notice of alteration On 19 days


Thursday 11 May
Deadline for receiving applications for registration 12 days Monday 22 May
Deadline for receiving new postal vote and postal proxy applications, and for changes to existing postal or proxy votes 11 days (5pm) 5pm on Tuesday 23 May
Deadline for receiving new applications to vote by proxy (not postal proxy or emergency proxies) 6 days (5pm) 5pm on Wednesday 31 May
Publication of second interim election notice of alteration Between 18 days and 6 days Between Friday 12 May and Wednesday 31 May (inclusive)
Publication of final election notice of alteration 5 days Thursday 1 June
Deadline for notification of appointment  of polling and counting agents 5 days Thursday 1 June
First date that electors can apply for a replacement for lost postal votes 4 days Friday 2 June
Deadline for notification of appointment of sub agents 2 days Tuesday 6 June
Polling day


0 (7am to 10pm) 7am to 10pm on Thursday 8 June
Last time for re-issue of spoilt or lost postal votes 0 (5pm) 5pm on Thursday 8 June
Deadline for emergency proxy applications 0 (5pm) 5pm on Thursday 8 June
Last time to alter the register due to clerical error or court appeal 0 (9pm) 9pm on Thursday 8 June
After the declaration of result
Event Deadline Date
Delivery of return as to election expenses Within 35 calendar days after the date the election result is declared If result declared on Thursday 8 June: by Thursday 13 July


If result declared on Friday 9 June: by Friday 14 July

Deadline for sending postal vote identifier rejection notices Within the period of three months beginning with the date of the poll By Thursday 7 September 2017
Deadline for spending returns of political parties and non party campaigners who spend less than £250,000 Within three months of the election 8 September 2017
Deadline for spending returns of political parties and non party campaigners who spend more than £250,000 Within six months of the election 8 December 2017