Watch the Somali pirates and the process of state creation


That's not exactly a terribly flattering picture up above there but it is a typical one of the process of state creation. Yes, this is how polities are born: men with guns enforcing it. as the newspaper says:

Somali pirates who raked in millions of dollars in ship hijackings have developed a lucrative new racket - acting as armed "escorts" to foreign trawlers that steal the country's fish. In a striking case of poacher-turned-gamekeeper, the same armed gangs who once preyed on the trawlermen are now acting as their bodyguards, earning huge "protection fees" in return for letting them poach Somalia's rich fishing stocks.

this is not poacher turned gamekeeper so much as the transition from Mancur Olson's roving bandits to stationary bandits. Olson's point being that it always has been the men with the weapons who decide how things get done and who gets what. But for the general population it's rather better when those men with guns decide to farm the population or a resource on a continual basis, rather than simply steal whatever and everything. For, eventually, it will click that slicing a bit off the top while growing the pie increases the amount that can be stolen. Thus even though the ruling class might be robbers, even robber barons, it is still possible for things to advance.

The way to look at this particular story is that this process is just starting in that part of the world. The other way to look at it is of course that it wasn't all that long ago that it was happening in our part of it. 1066 was most certainly exactly the same and there's various incidents since that we could say very much resemble it. Government isn't therefore just the name for what we do together. It is, rather, what is imposed upon us and the best we can hope for is an enlightened stationary bandit. Or, as we might also put it, one with enough guns to stop others imposing upon us but with not enough other powers for that very government to impose upon us.

Google's tax bill is nothing to celebrate


Google is to pay the UK £130m in back taxes. This has been hailed as a great victory against international corporations, which make profits in the UK but 'do not pay their fair share' of taxes'. Many others, like Amazon and Facebook, have also been cited as delinquents. A great victory for the UK Treasury? A boon for UK taxpayers? Hardly: by my calculations, £130m will keep the UK government going for just 91 minutes. If governments spent (and overspent) a lot less, individuals and firms might be more willing to pay tax to fund them.

The fact is that economic reality has changed (as it necessarily does) and companies are no longer as rooted to the land, in their factories and plant, as they were. Many, particularly in IT and services, can locate just about anywhere on the planet that they choose. And of course a number of enterprising countries are delighted to host them.

Moreover, with increasing volumes of trade done internationally over the internet, supplies sourced from many different countries, and semi-manufactures created in yet others, it is by no means clear where such companies' profits are actually made. A government might claim it is theirs, but they will be competing with others who think differently. If we are going to tax international corporations, we need to find a better way of doing it.

In any case, the tax that is supposedly paid by corporations is in fact paid by people. Studies show that three-fifths of the impact of corporation tax falls on the workers, reducing their wages. Of the remainder, some falls on shareholders by way of reduced dividends, making it harder for enterprising firms to attract new capital and create more jobs. Some is borne by customers in the form of higher prices.

Remember also the enormous benefits that firms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon bring to ordinary people. They have become successful international companies precisely because they offer people goods and services that they pay for quite willingly. In other words, they add value to our lives. Indeed, these companies add a lot of value to our lives. It would be well worth having them operating in one's country even if they paid the government no tax at all. Worth it solely for the benefit they bring to the public.

If only one could say that governments were equally valuable....

Isn't this the point of the NHS in the first place?


We're sure it is you know, the point and purpose of the NHS. At least, whenever we suggest introducing a bit more competition into the system we're told that this is the reason we shouldn't. For, you see, if we avoid the chaos and inefficiencies of competition, of the wasted capacity that must be there to allow competition, then the NHS will be a cheaper method of providing health care than alternative systems. And when we've looked at comparisons like those done by the Commonwealth Fund we find that the NHS is rated very highly because it's cheap, despite the fact that it's not all that good at actually curing people. But then we get this complaint from King's Fund:

Britain’s spending on its health service is falling by international standards and, by 2020, will be £43bn less a year than the average spent by its European neighbours, according to research by the King’s Fund.

The UK is devoting a diminishing proportion of GDP in health and is now a lowly 13th out of the original 15 EU members in terms of investment, an analysis for the Guardian by the thinktank’s chief economist shows.

But isn't that the point? The NHS is the Wonder of the World precisely because of its method of organisation? The one that allows us to have equitable and above all cheap health care as the state simply provides it? So how can lower funding than in other countries, with their less efficient systems and structures, be a problem? Isn't this supposed to be a sign of how marvelous the NHS is? That it does better on less?

Then again, we're not sure all that many arguments about the NHS are all that informed by logic: hysterical emotionalism seems to be par for the course.

It's time to start the Brexit contingency planning


There were reports this week that civil servants are thinking about what happens if the UK votes to leave the EU (‘Brexit’) – but are not writing anything down in case they get a Freedom of Information request. Sounds more as if they are not thinking about it at all. But if the UK is to succeed in its bargaining, it must have a credible alternative. We should start by creating a small group of advisers and civil servants, led by a (Eurosceptic?) minister, to draft an exit plan that can be put to Parliament very soon after the referendum in the event of a NO vote. If it is a NO vote, we should be prepared to serve immediate notice to leave the EU, under Article 50. We should offer to give up the UK’s presidency (for the second half of 2017) and cancel the UK’s participation in EU elections (2019) while negotiations are going on, and cease appointing UK officials to EU bodies. To be taken seriously in Brexit negotiations, we would need to appoint a tough (Eurosceptic) Foreign Secretary, and a tough Eurosceptic Ambassador to the EU. The Foreign Secretary will need a slick team of negotiators, with skills in trade law, economics, and EU politics.

We would have to reform the existing Economic Affairs Committee (EAC) of the Cabinet, bringing it under the Foreign Secretary and charging it with supervising the withdrawal. It would need to move quickly to identify the economic and legal issues arising from Brexit and establish the UK’s objectives in the talks. We would also need a dedicated communications team to promote the UK’s case and negotiating demands, and to show that it has a future outside the EU. That means identifying genuine free trade as the future framework for the UK’s trade, economic and foreign policy.

The Bank of England should also have plans in place to deal with any financial turbulence following a NO vote. It needs to coordinate with the financial authorities in EU to manage abnormal capital movements. And the MoD will have to revisit how it patrols UK fisheries.

Arrangements also need to be put in place for bilateral talks with countries remaining in the EU, and especially Ireland and our maritime neighbours. And we need to move very quickly on negotiating free trade deals with non-EU countries. At the end of the Brexit talks, we could usefully have not only a Secession Bill, but also a Free Trade Bill – inviting all-comers to trade freely with the United Kingdom. Indeed, drafting that Bill now might and implementing it earlier might just show our negotiating partners in Brussels that we really are deadly serious and that the trade gains will be ours.

That is a lot to think about. If the civil service daren’t put it all on paper, somebody else will have to.

We're against regulation because it keeps the poor poor


There's a certain absurdity to the regulatory state around the world. In some US states they insist that you go get a 3 year cosmetology degree in order to be allowed to legally work as a hair braider. We here in Britain shouldn't laugh too loudly: We've told that one of us broke the law by doing a bit of simple electrical work in our own kitchen just recently. That is reserved to those who have the correct chitty from government. But why is it that we are against such regulation of who may enter an industry, who may offer their services? Because, quite simply, it keeps the poor poor:

We examine the relationship between entry regulations and income inequality. Entry regulations increase the cost of legally starting a business relative to the alternatives—working for someone else, entering illegally, or exiting the labor force. We hypothesize that such regulations may cause greater income inequality, because entrepreneurs at the bottom rungs of the income distribution may have relatively greater difficulty surmounting costly barriers to entry. Combining entry regulations data from the World Bank Doing Business Index with various measures of income inequality, including Gini coefficients and income shares, we examine a pooled cross-section of 175 countries and find that countries with more stringent entry regulations tend to experience higher levels of income inequality. An increase by one standard deviation in the number of procedures required to start a new business is associated with a 1.5 percent increase in the Gini coefficient and a 5.6 percent increase in the share of income going to the top 10 percent of earners. Although we cannot eliminate the possibility of reverse causality, we are unaware of any theory that posits that income inequality causes entry regulations.

We're happy enough with the idea that a lorry driver should have some proven ability to drive a lorry before being let loose with a 40 tonne behemoth. But much less certain that we need quite as much restriction on who may do what as we currently have. And why not decide to provide that ladder up out of poverty and inequality by making it easier for people to get those first and entry level jobs?

Or, as we never tire of saying, it's surprising how often the solution to government identified problems, like poverty and inequality, is to stop government doing the damn fool things it already does.

Small Business Medicine is Poison


My teenage neighbour knows that good GCSE grades are better than bad ones. She has an idea that will help all students at exam time. Introduce a minimum grade level of C, so that no student, however bad, can be sullied with D, E and F grades as they enter the job market. Only joking. My teenage neighbour is not that silly. Apparently though my local council hasn’t got this point – having just advertised for a job vacancy in the department that subsidises small businesses. Unfortunately, the idea that it’s a good thing to subsidise small businesses extends far further than my local council – it is a nationwide misapprehension that needs correcting.

Most teenagers could work out that misleading students, parents, exam boards and prospective employers about pupils' scholastic abilities won't help anyone in the long run, because artificially altering GCSE grades to Cs and above gives a distorted picture of academic ability and employability.

Why can't politicians on the left work out similar logic when the case is small business subsidies? The answer, I suspect, is simple: competing parties are not primarily interested in logic, they are interested in securing votes - in this case, the votes of people that think too lazily to realise that small business subsidies are no better than GCSE grade subsidies - as both distort the market in which they operate.

The problem is, small business subsidies amount to the government taking taxpayers’ money and giving it to businesses that may or may not be viable enough to survive in a competitive market dictated by supply and demand. If taxpayers wouldn't voluntarily spend their money in these businesses then they are being artificially propped up against the majority of people's will. If taxpayers would voluntarily spend their money in these businesses then no subsidies are needed. The success of a business is not measured by the state's ability to prop it up, it is measured by whether it generates enough profit in a supply and demand market.

If demand for Jean's Knitwear falls, then prices may fall to increase demand. If Jean’s Knitwear can no longer generate a profit to live, the signals are there that her business is inefficient or that her products are low in demand. Prices in a free market are the signals that make what is being supplied adjust to the demand of those supplies. Alas, prices no longer provide this signal when politicians interfere with subsidies or controls - they stop prices exhibiting changes in the supply or demand for goods and services.

It's easy to see why small business subsidies are popular with voters. They make any party that endorses them seem caring, and mindful of struggling companies, as well as giving the impression of being supporters of the underdog against the often maligned multi-national corporations. In fact, I'd wager that most of the public like the sound of small business subsidies - so public support for them is a bit like pushing on an open electoral door. But like most things that sound too good to be true, the medicine is poison, because nothing comes for free.

The visible benefits are obvious - the beneficiaries are small businesses. But the losers are taxpayers who are having their money spent in places in which they wouldn't do so voluntarily. But more than that, the other losers - the invisible losers - are those missing out on opportunities to enter the market. Thanks to subsidies, Jean's Knitwear may now be staying afloat - but as well as taxpayer costs, the cost of such subsidies is the forgone opportunities for others goods and services suppliers trying to enter the market or stay afloat on their own merit. It's a shame when small businesses go under. But you cannot fix the problem by distorting price signals and forcing taxpayers to support them as if they were successful businesses. Only an fool would do that; well...that is, a fool, or someone who saw a popularity-winning policy and flaunted it to secure votes.

Revealing public sector culture


Public sector organisations need to come clean on how they spend our taxes. Progress has been made but too many still obfuscate. An example of good practice is the Scottish Fire Service. You can see their spending here.

While the press like shock-horror reporting on absolute amounts, this is often pointless; much more useful is proper analysis that dissects trends and examines variances between public entities, particularly in service overheads.

Enabling cross comparisons between entities is vital for public policy analytics. Bureaucrats always find it easy to defend their missions by explaining them as political aspirations – safer travel, better social support, a cleaner environment and so on. While it is easy for them to find reasons for continuing and expanding their goals, it is much more difficult to generate proper objective analysis of the prices to taxpayers of these supposedly beneficial activities.

For example, within the Fire Service figures above are travel expenses of board members. We find highly paid officials repeatedly traveling from Edinburgh to London at fares much higher than ordinary economy. There are also hotel stays to catch early flights.

These are what I call presumptive activities: tax-funded officials adopting expensive spending habits in their daily operations; presuming that this is the way top people operate in business and that they will never be called on to defend them. The reality, especially in Scotland where 95% of businesses are small, is that private business would never allow this gravy-plane; they know this money would be far better spent elsewhere.

Public officials choose to spend money on an entirely different basis than private individuals. They gain nothing from self-restriction; and too often they prefer feeling important over actually being productive. Transparent cost reporting therefore opens up an enormous potential for cost reduction in the public sector.

To achieve that potential requires a key institutional change: all public sector functionaries should be made to work within what the private sector would call profit and loss accounting centres. Overheads might be corporately shared but responsibility for any share should be enumerated to each specific function. And while “profits” may in fact be net costs, a calculation can always be made on cash gains or losses in operations that can then be adopted as a control.

Combined with transparent cost centre reporting, the huge gain would be to allow taxpayers to see that function “A” in entity “X” was a known percentage more or less efficient than entity “Y and “Z”. Properly reporting that, and tying it via performance agreements to top official salaries, would weed out presumptive activities, including the easy resort to expensive travel, which are in fact poor productive choices for our communities.

Eben Wilson is the Director of Taxpayer Scotland, and a Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute.

What on earth is Theresa May up to here?


The answer to that headline question is depressingly simple: politics.

A new £1,000-a-year immigration skills levy is expected to be introduced on all firms for each skilled migrant they recruit from outside Europe, under a new crackdown ordered by the home secretary, Theresa May.

There is no sense to this at all. The point about accepting economic migrants is that doing so makes us richer. So why on earth we should be charging people for going through the process of making us richer is unknown. Except, of course, that we do know very well why this is happening.

There is concern generally about the level of immigration. We don't share that concern but then so what? Politics is the art of at least pretending to do something about the issues that the voters care about. But what can the government do about immigration?

It cannot limit any movement of people from within the European Union. Other than family reunion issues and the like the UK doesn't really have much in the way of unskilled ex-EU immigration. Refugees and asylum seekers are also dealt with under international agreements and are not part of domestic policy. The only part of immigration that is actually under the control of those in Westminster is skilled, economic, migration from outside the EU. Thus, if the populace are getting antsy about immigration that's where the people in Westminster will do something.

What they do, how they do it, the sense of what they do isn't the point at all. Given that something must be done and this is the only place where they can do something then this is where they will. Despite the fact that skilled migration is exactly the type we want and charging people for employing those who make us richer is simply nonsensical.

But then, you know, politics. It's rather why we're so adamant that politics should be restricted, as a way of running things, to only those things that cannot be handled in any other manner. Simply because the results from politics are so often so dismal.

A Triumph in Disguise


TfL’s announcement of a fresh set of restrictive proposals for Uber is undoubtedly a victory for those of us who wish to avoid deliberate impediments to progress. The initial, much harsher, suggestions have been avoided. However, it will regardless be met by the right with reminders of the fantastic silliness of arbitrary regulation. And so it should, really. Amongst other things, the proposals require Uber drivers to: pass an English test; pass a geography test; and provide personal details to customers before the start of the journey. Fairly obviously, these are all trivial – their only justification could be that they somehow protect the customer from being cheated out of a proper service.

But no – were this the case, black cabs would surely come under the same restrictions. (Of course, they do all have to pass The Knowledge but this is decidedly self-imposed). The new proposals are aimed purely at reducing the productive potential of Uber, to the end of preserving the black cab tradition.

After all, if customers decided that whatever language barrier existed between them and their Uber driver was overtly disagreeable, they’d simply have never decided to transfer their custom between the cab services. A geography test would only ever be useful if it afforded such depth of knowledge that drivers could override what few errors their GPS systems make - 'Knowledge Lite' will do no such thing. Personal details tend to be of no consequence to the average consumer, as long as they’ve the assurance of Uber’s vetting process.

But we’ve heard this all before. What’s more important to take from this all is that the anti-Uber squad has backed down, and those of us who hope for a world in which inefficiencies are swiftly uprooted should enjoy the triumph.

Another ten bad arguments for staying in the EU


Here are another 10 of the arguments for remaining in the EU that do not stand up. 11. A leave vote would be a leap into a perilous and unpredictable unknown

It is certainly true that an exit from the EU would take the UK into an unpredictable unknown, though there is no reason to suppose that it need be particularly perilous. It would be unpredictable because the future always is. If we stayed in the EU we would also face an unpredictable future.

It is important to understand that status quo is not an option. If we vote to remain, we are not voting to stay inside an unchanging EU, but to stay in one that will continue to develop and change. Many in the EU wish it to move to "ever closer union," and they mean political union, with ever more decisions being taken collectively by EU institutions rather than by the governments of member nations.

The choice between "remain" and "leave" thus comes down to a choice between staying within an organization that will develop towards closer political union, or choosing not to be a part of that closer unity. The UK could survive and prosper outside the EU; many other countries do. For much of our country's history it has stood alone, outside of political union, but intertwined with other nations by treaties, alliances and agreements.

A post EU Britain would continue to enjoy those relationships and the advantages and security they bring. It would retain friendly relations with the EU, as many countries already do. A UK that voted to stay in the EU might be able to retain a considerable area of independence from centralized decision-making. It might be an outrider, inside the EU, but outside of the central core of nations driving toward ever closer union. It depends on the terms that can be agreed. But there is no reason to suppose that our absence from that process need be perilous.

The least unknown course is to remain an economic partner of the EU, while choosing no longer to be a part of the political union. This would be achieved by a vote to leave.


12. Britain's voice is stronger in Europe

Some think that the UK doesn't count for much by itself these days, but by joining our voice into an EU chorus we can make ourselves heard more. The EU presently represents 28 nations with a combined population of over 500m. If the EU were a country it would be the world's third most populous and have the second biggest economy. With such a size, goes the argument, the EU has to be listened to. It can make its voice count for far more than any of its individual members, including the UK, could.

The problem with this argument is that it assumes that our interests coincide with those of the EU, and that it does in fact speak for us when it makes its voice heard. The reality is that the UK is one small voice within the EU, and one often not heeded. The UK is regularly outvoted within the EU, so EU positions are often ones that were opposed by the UK when they were first put forward. Securing agreement between 28 nations is difficult, so many collective decisions will act against the interests of some of the individual members.

The EU is also cumbersome. It takes time to negotiate a position that takes account of the preferences and views of its individual members. A single nation can declare its position on issues that arise, but the EU might take weeks or months before a joint position can be hammered out. And even then the position will probably be a compromise rather than a clear expression of its position.

A UK that was independent of the EU would, it is true, speak with a smaller voice than that of the EU, but it would be a voice that actually represented its interest every time, rather than having that interest swallowed up in the interests of others. An independent UK would also have its own seat in many of the world's assemblies, instead of having that seat occupied on its behalf by the EU. Its voice would speak for itself. ____

13. It will cost us money to leave the EU. We'd lose EU grants

While it is true that some UK institutions such as research laboratories receive grants from the EU, these are a tiny fraction of the amount that Britain pays in as its annual contribution. In 2014 that was £19.1bn. It would not, therefore, cost us money to leave the EU. On the contrary, the UK would end up well ahead financially if it did vote to leave.

The EU's record of money management has often come under attack. It has a huge budget and spends money on a lavish scale. Its expenses for parliamentarians and officials are notoriously profligate, and it gives grants to organizations within member states, choosing to reward pro-EU groups and to withhold funds from those that do not actively support it.

The UK would come out well ahead if it left, and would no longer have the EU interfering in its domestic politics through it use of grants to influence political thinking in the UK to support the EU and its policies. An independent UK would be more careful in spending its funds than the EU is with those funds it allegedly spends on our behalf.

The EU takes huge sums from the UK and spends large parts of them on projects in other countries, as well as in this one, that an independent UK would probably not choose to back. An independent UK would also gain economically by not having to follow the many EU regulations that raise the costs of business without achieving anything worthwhile. A UK that spent the funds for itself would certainly choose to spend them on things it decided were more in its interest.

There would be a positive effect on our national debt, too, in that if we were no longer in the EU we would no longer bear any liability (through our central contribution to its budget) to support states within the Euozone that have suffered economic collapse and need to be bailed out. ____

14. UK businesses would lose out if we left

This is almost certainly untrue. Once the trade deal is put in place, which will be well before we actually leave the EU, UK businesses will have continued access to the Single Market. Since less than half Britain's trade is with the EU, and since 95 percent of UK firms do not export there, the expectation is that UK businesses will continue after exit much as they did beforehand. Some firms will take advantage of the more favourable regulatory climate after exit to lower their costs and increase their worldwide sales outside the EU.

Some firms, especially in the financial industry of the City, will have to overcome difficulties by making changes to the way they do business. But with the difficulties come opportunities. Unconstrained by the EU on the global stage, UK financial firms are well placed to expand into new areas. London's role as the key global player in the finance industry will not be harmed if the referendum vote takes the UK out of the EU. Nor it will find that role threatened any more by EU encroachments designed to support its other members to our detriment. On the contrary, its new independence will enhance its status as a neutral ground on which the world finds it advantageous to do business.

It is noticeable that countries such as the US, Australia and Switzerland are not lining up for admission to the EU. They know the losses if they did join would far outweigh the gains.

It is generally true that UK governments have been more sympathetic to the needs and problems of businesses than have their EU counterparts. EU legislators and bureaucrats often seek to impose a political agenda on business, whereas the UK usually oversees business with a looser rein, preferring to see it seize opportunities to generate wealth rather than to constrain it within a political plan. A UK independent of the EU would almost certainly create a climate more favourable to business than any the EU itself might bring about. UK businesses would benefit, not suffer, if this were to happen. ____

15. International peace and stability are safer with Britain's EU membership

Peace and stability featured among the motives when the European Economic Community was first established. France and Germany had fought in two disastrous and costly world wars, and the thinking was that further wars could be prevented if they were bound together to each other by strong economic ties. These later developed into political ties. The strategy worked to some extent, in that France and Germany learned to negotiate and settle disputes by compromise and arbitration instead of by military posturing.

This was over 60 years ago, and represents yesterday's solution to yesterday's problem. It is no longer part of the EU remit to keep France and Germany from making war on each other because that is not a modern world problem. Some have pointed out in any case that it was the need to unite against the threat of Soviet aggression that threw France and Germany together more securely than did the EEC.

Indeed, military commentators and historians have made the case that it was not the EEC and its successor EU which preserved international peace and security, but the network of military alliances led by NATO which acted as a sufficiently strong deterrent to resist threats to that peace from the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.

It is noticeable that the EU failed in its attempts to bring peace to the Balkans in the wars of the 1990s following the break-up of Yugoslavia. The killing and ethnic cleansing continued despite attempted EU mediation. It was only when NATO intervened with its armed forces, thereby causing the US to bring military force into the conflict, that peace was eventually restored.

A departure from the EU by the UK would not involve its departure from NATO or its other co-operative alliances, and would not bring any weakening of international peace and stability. ____

16. The UK farming industry would be destroyed if we came out

There is no doubt that farmers across the EU benefit from the subsidies and supports that the EU provides out of its budget. Determined to protect their farmers, together with the traditional look of their countryside, the French bargained hard to get the EC (as it then was) to support farming with subsidies and tariffs, and the Common Agricultural Policy was born.

The CAP subsidized over-production, leading to such excesses as "milk lakes" and "butter mountains" as surplus goods were stored. It had a malign impact on developing countries, since the EC closed its borders to their primary produce, while dumping its own surpluses onto world markets to undermine world prices for them. Its subsidized beet sugar, in particular, undercut poorer countries dependent on cane sugar exports.

The CAP was also charged, and still is, with promoting excess application of fertilizers and pesticides. More recently it subsidized bio-fuels from food crops, leading to food price rises in poorer countries so EU members could move to renewable fuels. The CAP record has been malign on the environment and world living standards.

Undoubtedly UK farming would change if we left the EU and its CAP. It would be more exposed to world markets and world prices, outside of the EU's protective bubble, and would have to adjust accordingly. It would have to move to farming crops and animals for markets, rather than for subsidies. Fortunately the more than £19bn that the UK would save in its membership payment would provide a buffer from which support for UK farmers could be phased out gradually as they adjusted to real-world conditions. The UK might choose to continue support to some areas of farming but, once out of the EU, these would be chosen to aid UK farmers rather than those of other EU members. UK farming would not be destroyed, but it would change for the better. ____

17. Civil rights would be weaker in Britain if we left the EU's jurisdiction

If the UK left the EU, it would cease to come under the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), but would continue its accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is overseen by the European Court of Human Rights. The ECJ fundamentally rules on EU law, but there is some overlap because it is obliged to weave into its findings a due respect for the ECHR. This Convention covers not just EU members, but the 47 nations of the Council of Europe.

This distinction reminds us that Europe and the EU are not the same; the latter is a subset of the former. There would be no loss to the UK in leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The latter interprets EU law, and has usually ruled against the UK's when it has opposed interpretations of EU law that it believes are opposed to its interests.

It was a European Court ruling that declared it to be illegal to have a blanket ban on giving prisoners the vote, a move opposed by the UK which has traditionally denied them this right. There have been other cases, notably the ban on "whole life" sentences. Those adversely affected by decisions of the UK courts have resorted to appeal to the ECJ if the issue concerned interpretation of EU law, or to the ECHR if they felt they their human rights had been infringed. These include those charged with terrorist offences and those who have openly urged violence against Western nations including the UK.

If the UK quit the EU, it would still be bound by the ECHR, whose decisions UK judges have agreed to respect. There have been calls for a UK law to enshrine civil rights in a UK law that would replace the 1998 Act that took us into the ECHR. But this issue is not bound up with our membership of the EU, and would not be affected by our withdrawal from it. ____

18. The UK would be more likely to break up if we left the EU

SNP members have suggested that Scotland would also have to vote to leave in order for a UK-wide 'leave' vote in a referendum to be valid. There seems little if any evidence that Wales of Northern Ireland would want to seek independence and remain in the EU if the UK as a whole voted to leave, but the question is valid as to whether an exit vote might precipitate Scottish independence.

In law the position is fairly clear. If the UK votes to leave, this will apply to all parts of the UK when it is implemented. There is no question of Scotland being allowed to remain in the EU if Scots were outvoted in a UK-wide referendum, any more than Yorkshire would be allowed to remain if a majority of its residents bucked the national trend of a 'no' vote. Scotland would leave as part of a UK exit.

Whether this would inflame the nationalism of a Scotland determined to unite with Brussels rather than London is something that cannot be predicted. It seems strange that Scotland would want to leave one union in order to join another. A future independent Scotland would have to start the application process from scratch if it wished to join the EU.

As far as opinion polls can give any indication, they show that the Scottish population is divided on the issue, just as is the population of the rest of the UK. It is true that Scotland voted to elect many SNP Members of Parliament once they could safely do so without fear of separation from the UK after the independence vote was defeated. It seems that the Scots quite like the SNP without liking the idea of independence.

In the coming referendum it is likely that millions of Scots will vote to remain in the EU, though it is unlikely that a majority of the population will do so. It is also likely that millions of them will vote to leave the EU, though this, too, is unlikely to constitute a majority of the population. Scotland may or may not choose the path of independence in future, having recently rejected it. But whether the UK votes to leave in the EU or to remain within it does not seem likely to affect that outcome. ____

19. If we left we'd lose the regulatory controls through which the EU makes our banks and businesses behave properly

The supposition here is that the EU is in a better position than is the UK to ensure that banks and businesses conduct their affairs in ways that are satisfactory to people in the UK. There is no evidence for this. There is, however, considerable evidence that EU bureaucrats and politicians have far less knowledge or understanding of how business actually works than do their UK counterparts, which themselves are not always adequately competent.

It is also patently clear that EU regulations on business are subject to political horse-trading as EU member states vie to gain advantage for their own areas of business. In financial regulation, for example, there are many allegations that other EU members, envious of the UK's leading position in finance, deliberately seek to impose regulations that will restrict the UK's position in order to advance their own.

The notion that the UK is too weak-willed to adequately monitor and circumscribe the behaviour of its banks and businesses is a strange one. The implication is that we in the UK are prepared to condone irregularity and even immorality in our business affairs to a lesser degree than our EU counterparts. Given the business ethics that prevail in some EU countries, this is a truly remarkable notion.

The UK seems both ready and capable of introducing and implementing the regulations needed to ensure acceptable ethical and sound business practices within its shores. We have done so in the past and currently do so; but we can only do this at present within EU rules. We would enjoy greater flexibility outside the EU.

There is nothing to suggest that we need the distant decisions of EU bureaucrats and politicians to ensure that this happens, and much to suggest that we could do it better and more appropriately ourselves. ____

20. Leaving the EU would see the UK retreating from the world to become insular and narrow in its outlook and influence

This claim is the opposite of the truth. In fact the EU is characterized by a narrow regionalism that is anti-global in its outlook. It looks inward from behind its protective walls, and tries to keep out the world influences it thinks might upset its delicate balance. Too often it seeks to insulate itself from the rest of the world rather than to embrace and interact with it.

Furthermore the EU is growing less significant internationally as time passes, constituting a smaller share of the world economy. A UK which voted to separate from the EU would not be retreating from the world but advancing into it. The UK could make global trading partnerships and negotiate free trade deals that opened its markets to other countries and gave it access to theirs in return. The UK could think and act globally instead of tying its future only to the other members of the EU.

If the UK votes to leave there is no question of putting up shutters and fences to keep the world out. It is the exact reverse. The UK would play a full part on the global stage, recognizing that the future of the world lies not in seeking regional advantage, but in recognizing that the world is becoming one that interacts more widely for mutual advantage. We are moving into a world of interconnectivity, where people in distant parts of it impact daily on the lives of those in the far reaches of it.

The UK is held back from this by the need to conform to EU rules and to let the EU negotiate on its behalf agreements that are more restrictive and confining than those we could have negotiated for ourselves. A UK that voted to leave would not be retreating behind the walls of a 'Fortress Britain,' but declaring itself ready to deal and trade with the wider world beyond the EU's borders, and confident that it can do so effectively and in ways that make it a better place.