Tech Savvy – Will Travel: The rise of the digital nomad

Digital Nomad pic credit: Wikipedia

Last year was the year when Brexit limited the right of millions of people to travel and work across 27 EU countries – ending not only the freedom of movement for people to come to the UK but also go abroad.

The situation has also been made much worse by the global Covid 19 pandemic which saw a huge shutdown across the globe where people could not go on holiday or visit countries for work.

While all this was happening there was an almost unnoticed countervailing trend which is seeing massive new opportunities for the young and tech savvy to leave the UK and the US and work elsewhere.

Countries across Europe and much of the rest of the world are falling over each other to attract bright young entrepreneurial and tech savvy people to come, live and work there with special visas and tax incentives and ignoring normal restrictions – including the new ones imposed by the EU after the UK left – to stop people staying there.

Post Covid 2022 could be the year of the rise of the digital nomad – that young, free wheeling person who with a laptop can run a business anywhere from any country.

This phenomenon was highlighted this weekend on the website Dispatches Europe which has just launched an updated guide to cope with growing number of countries now offering opportunities.

The link to the guide is here. Basically much of Europe is covered plus the range of places goes from the Arctic Circle to the Caribbean.

For the most adventurous the most extraordinary place is Svalbard – a Norwegian island nearer the North Pole than Oslo ! You do not even require a visa to live there -only an address and a job – and you can stay as long as you like. It is cold -in the summer the sun shines for 24 hours a day and it is totally dark all winter. Intriguingly for a place with only 2000 residents it is nearly as diverse as London with 70 different nationalities finding their their way there. Watch the video below and seriously watch out for polar bears.

At the other end of the spectrum is the former Portuguese Cape Verde Islands nearer to the Equator than Lisbon. This year the authorities have released visas to attract Europeans and Americans to go and set up businesses there. just created Remote Working Cabo Verde, a tax exempt digital nomad visa designed to attract 4,000 foreigners, The visa is just 54 Euros valid initially for six months but extendable for up to a year. A video is below.

In the Caribbean visas have been set up for Aruba and Curacao, both self governing parts of the Netherlands and in the EU, the new Republic of Barbados, ( expensive visa costing nearly £1500) Bahamas and further north in Bermuda ( though the latter is aimed at high rollers – they can include staff and chauffeurs- and is expensive). So far 400 have come.

I wrote up a piece on Aruba when I visited it two years ago on a cruise – it is almost in South America as it is only 22 miles from Venezuela. It is a fascinating desert island. The link is here. The only thing you have to beware of is you can occasionally find a boa constrictor in the bath – but Aruba’s pest control are used to dealing with them. ( some foolish person brought them to Aruba and they have escaped and bred)

Curacao promotion aimed at the US market

An even more ambitious digital nomad project is planned for Italy where they have over 2000 ghost villages in the country and want to attract remote workers there- the fund could top 1 million Euros. So far one Tuscan village has jumped the gun- Santa Flora is offering 200 Euros a month rent subsidies for apartments there – and wants people to decide to settle a buy a home. So you can swap our drab winters for vineyards and olive groves.

Other countries planning to attract digital nomads include Spain and Croatia has just started a scheme – allowing you to be based on the Dalmatian coast and able to rent a place for 350 or so Euros a month. The visa is for one year in this EU country and digital nomads are exempt from income tax. They have to earn over $31,514 a year (just under £23,200), to qualify.

Compare all this to London and the UK. The UK does not seem to have any special digital nomad visas relying on a normal visa application to work here. It is regarded as an expensive country, housing costs are through the roof, public transport and fuel is expensive, though its cities are well known for cultural and night life. The best city for a digital nomad is said to be Newcastle-upon-Tune which has a good night life and is cheaper to live than elsewhere.

What seems to be clear from all this is that for many young people – the attraction of all round beach life ( unless you go to Svalbard), cheaper accommodation, combined with high speed internet and for young as opposed to old people, not too expensive health insurance make it a one way bet.

Boris Johnson has made much of claims of ” Global Britain” and the wonderful future he promises all of us. But looking at all these offers abroad I think clever young tech savvy people will see the wonders of a global life and opt to leave the country as soon as possible.

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Brexit: How Parliament abdicated its role to scrutinise the biggest change in UK life for 50 years

Parliament: Abdicating scrutiny

The most potent slogan of the Vote Leave campaign was the promise that Brexit meant that the country could ” take back control” and Parliament would be sovereign and we will be governed by our own laws.

Today Parliament abdicated its role to take back control of scrutinising the Brexit deal by kowtowing to a manipulative government which left little time to examine the Treaty before it had to come into effect.

Boris Johnson opening the debate with Rishi Sunak looking on Pic Credit: @UK Parliament _jessica Taylor

A huge bill which will change Britain’s relationship with our nearest neighbours, end the freedom of British people to work and study in Europe, and introduce a raft of bureaucratic red tape to do business with Europe while avoiding tariffs and quotas, will be debated in just half a day. The bill will have no clause by clause examination because there will be no time in the Commons to do this. It will be just rubber stamped. And MPs will have just four minutes – later reduced to three – each to comment.

Keir Starmer backing the “thin deal rather than no deal” with Opposition chief whip Nick Brown

Similarly the House of Lords will not have time to scrutinise the bill either and though 145 peers have said they want to comment the new bill – they have precisely three minutes each to do so. The House of Lords Constitution Committee will scrutinise the detail of the bill after it has become law – even though the government does not want this to happen. The government in its explanatory memorandum says the bill is not suitable for pre legislation scrutiny. But Baroness Taylor, who chairs the Lords Constitution Committee, points out that the means the government uses to implement the treaty are subject to scrutiny – and she indicated that many of the Commission powers had been transferred to ministers not Parliament.

Ian Blackford, Scottish National Party leader, who opposed the deal and whose party voted against of it.

By midnight tonight the Royal Assent will be given. As the Hansard Society says: “Parliament’s role around the end of the Brexit transition and conclusion of the EU future relationship treaty is a constitutional failure to properly scrutinise the executive and the law.”

It rightly says the proceedings amount to a farce. Compare it with the European Parliament – which Brexiteers say amount to bureaucratic dictators. They declined to rush through a debate approving the deal until they could properly consider it. Instead they rely on a temporary agreement to allow trade to continue and will set aside much more time to debate it than the UK Parliament. They have two months to do this.

The reason why this is important is if there are defects in the legislation that will show up later and end up discrediting the issue even for Brexiteers. Much better to get the legislation right – and Parliamentary scrutiny is the best way to do this. Particularly as the deal runs to 1200 pages and you have to check the bill with the Treaty and refer to other legislation. We have now thrown away that chance.

In a way this is a microcosm of the way Boris Johnson and his Cabinet colleagues want to govern this country. They do not want scrutiny and want “to take back control” for themselves and not for Parliament or the people. They want to use Parliament and the people for their own agenda. Today was a bad day for Parliament and democracy.

On Byline Times: UK to impose trade sanctions on Trump tomorrow to meet EU and WTO rules

Pic credit: BBC

While nearly all the attention is being given to the Covid 19 crisis tomorrow the UK will have to impose a limited number of trade sanctions on the Trump administration under a European Commission directive.

But you will say we have left the EU and Trump is a great friend of Boris Johnson? Well not quite. Until December 31 we abide by EU rules but have no say and this is why we are still caught up in the trade row between Trump and the European Union.

Ironically the EU has used a World Trade Organisation rule on anti dumping to put up the tariffs on a very limited number of goods.And the UK can’t afford to break WTO rules – if it is forced into a No Deal Brexit.

Read the full story on Byline Times here.

The Commons committee report where this is revealed came out yesterday. It is No 11 in a long list of new regulations.

On Byline Times:Brexit – Two time zones next for Ireland

The end of summer time is about to cause new divisions across Ireland as the UK opts out and the Republic of Ireland is expect to have to opt in to a new European Commission directive Pic Credit: Articular/ Freepik

I have done a story today on Byline Times on an issue that will further divide the communities in Ireland – proposed changes by the European Commission to cease putting the clocks forward and back every year. It is coming to a head just as the UK is close to leaving the European Union. You can read it here.

Has Theresa May got it wrong over the Brexit negotiation plan?

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Theresa May

Theresa May, Prime Minister Pic Credit:


Theresa May is about to trigger Article 50 and go into negotiations with the other 27 European Union countries to sort out arrangements covering British trade with this huge market. It is a complete mystery how Britain is going to play its cards and Theresa May doesn’t want to give anything away.

However  a fascinating  post  from Stewart Wood, a former adviser to  Labour PM, Gordon Brown and  later to  Ed Miliband, suggests that she does have a strategy but it may be the wrong one.

Drawing from his experience in Whitehall  he suggests that Theresa May plans to draw from her experience as home secretary where she successfully negotiated an opt out on police and criminal justice matters – choosing to opt back in to measures she accepted.

She plans to use this to apply to the whole British negotiation.

He writes : “Her plan is for the UK to leave the single market en bloc, but renegotiate continued access to it on preferential terms for some key UK industrial sectors as part of a wider free trade agreement. According to this vision, these lucky sectors would continue to enjoy de facto membership of the single market, but without the requirement to be bound by decisions of the European Court of Justice. Problem solved, our Prime Minister thinks.”

So will this work? Not according to Stewart Wood because  the mechanism she is using does not apply here.

” So it can work again, right? Wrong. The strategy of “exit then cherry-picking” worked with the JHA decision in 2014 for a simple reason: it was set up as an “exit plus cherry-picking” deal in the Lisbon Treaty itself. It is a colossal error to think that the same approach can work in the case of Brexit – a negotiation of phenomenally greater complexity, played on multiple chessboards simultaneously, where interests between the EU and the UK are nowhere near as simply aligned, and where opt-outs have not been negotiated by existing treaty provisions.”

I gather Stewart Wood’s views are reflected in Whitehall thinking. But whether Theresa May is taking any notice is another matter.

What it does mean is that if he is right  the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and the Scots Nats are going to have a field day if they decide to hold the government to account. Also all the sectors – from the car industry, the financial sector and technology to name but a few – might vote with their feet to maintain unrestricted access to the EU. Interesting times.

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The Brexit court case: Much ado about nothing


The absurd and despicable take by the Daily Mail on the court judgement


The reaction to the High Court decision saying that Parliament should be able to debate and trigger Britain’s application to leave the EU has been both depressing and ludicrous.

Newspapers like the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph have treated the judges as ” enemies of the people ” just for having the temerity to lay down what is a perfectly valid constitutional decision.

They have NOT ruled that Britain should never leave the European Union but only that our leaving should follow proper constitutional procedures.

The papers have whipped up popularism on a totally false premise and played to the ignorance of people about what is actually happening.

The people who voted to leave the European Union should be delighted not furious about what has happened.

Their main case for leaving the EU was that they didn’t want to be ruled by Brussels and wanted to take back our sovereignty to rule ourselves.

Well what has happened. A British court composed of British judges has ruled that a British Parliament should have the last word and decide how we leave the EU. Brussels or any other foreign power has not said a word.

That seems perfectly reasonable to me. We are a Parliamentary democracy who elect MPs to pass laws and take up issues on our behalf. What we had earlier this year was a referendum not a general election in which the people decided to leave the EU. Therefore it  is Parliament not the government that should be guardian of that referendum.

The last general election was won by a party that promised a referendum on whether we should leave the EU, not on a mandate that we will leave the EU – you had to vote UKIP for that.

The other criticism of media coverage of this ruling is the  despicable attack on both the person who brought the case and on the judges themselves. Anybody has a right to bring a case and the idea they should be pilloried for doing so is anathema to democracy.

And the attack on the judges – particularly the homophobic criticism of one of them – was absolutely beyond the pale. What right has the Daily Mail to highlight that one of the judges was gay. Do we have ruling that no gay judge can pass judgement in this country? That is utterly despicable – worthy more of Donald Trump than Paul Dacre.

There is another profound reason why Parliament should make the final decision. Yes we voted to leave the EU but nobody was given a clear picture of how we were going to leave the EU during the referendum. The No camp did not have a plan.

So given there  about 57 Heinz varieties of doing so – it is right that our MPs and for that matter peers under the present system  should  debate  how we are going to do it and question the government on their plans.

The government is arguing that to do so would give away their hand. This is ridiculous and untenable. If the government think they can negotiate in secret  they misunderstand the role of the press in this country and Europe. their plans will inevitably be leaked and when it comes to the negotiations to leave in Europe- journalists will have the resources to tap officials from 28 countries to find out what is going on. Theresa May is living in cloud cuckoo land if she thinks she can keep a lid on it.

So what is all this sound and fury about this decision by the judges – in my view it is much ado about nothing. People should grow up and accept in a mature democracy the issue should be debated and decided in the best forum to safeguard our sovereignty- Parliament.




Why treacherous Michael Gove can’t be trusted with your money at Number Ten

Michael Gove

Michael Gove Pic Credit: Channel Four


The extraordinary treacherous act by Michael Gove in ditching Cameron and then dumping Boris Johnson  to try to be Prime Minister has obscured another damning trait in this discredited Tory star.

While the sound and  fury surrounding the Referendum campaign dominated the headlines Whitehall quietly produced a damning finding which questions the competence of Michael Gove to stand for  high office anywhere.

Before he moved to the Ministry of Justice, where he undid some of the nasty work of Chris Grayling, Gove was secretary of state for  education.

In the run up to the  Campaign Whitehall belatedly published the Whole Government Accounts – an international accounting standard record of every pound spent of taxpayer’s money and the value of the assets held by the British government.

This report was late because of the failure of one Cabinet minister – Michael Gove – to be able to  account for a staggering £33 billion -yes billion- of public money and assets while he was in office. That’s equivalent to half the education budget or THREE years of our contributions to the European Union.

As the findings by the National Audit Office says in Whitehall officialese:

“The 2014-15 Department for Education (DfE) accounts were qualified on the basis of incomplete and inaccurate valuation of academies’ land and buildings assets.

“ In 2014-15, the number of academies continued to increase from 3,905 to 4,580, but the DfE has not addressed the difficulty in maintaining oversight over them. As a result the scope of this issue has grown to £33 billion during the year and is likely to continue to be a source of continued qualification within the Whole Government accounts (WGA ) until there are changes in the oversight and accountability regime for academies. “

The findings means the department has no accurate record of the billions of pounds of school buildings and property they have handed over to private academies and free schools in the rush to create so many academies. The man who rushed through this in such a cavalier fashion was Michael Gove.

Whoever is the next Prime Minister is going to have a head for figures to negotiate one of the most complex series of deals to disentangle ourselves from the EU and be responsible for signing off tens of billions of pounds of complex trade deals across the world.

If Michael Gove gets to  Number Ten job it would be like handing over the running of the country to a reckless  irresponsible teenager who ran up huge debts on his parent’s credit card  but couldn’t properly account for what he had done.

Gove obviously has no responsibility, interest or understanding of how to control our money. He is entitled to his ideological commitment to creating academies but in his enthusiasm for this controversial policy he is leaving a trail of muddle and mess in his wake. In my view this makes him totally unsuitable to hold this top job. This of all times is no place for incompetents.

The woes of the first 48 hours of Brexit


Parliament at sunset. Pic credit: LSE blog


So Britain has had its ” independence  day ” as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage would have it. And what have been the repercussions.

In 48 hours the pound has dropped to its lowest level since 1985.

Stock markets across the world from London to Wall Street have all fallen.

The Prime Minister has announced his intention to resign before the party conference triggering a Brexit leadership contest.

Jeremy Corbyn is facing a leadership  challenge from his own MPs reinforcing the split between the Parliamentary Party from huge swathes of the membership. The shadow cabinet is now splitting as well with eleven resignations so far tonight.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has said that it is ” highly likely” there will be a fresh referendum on independence from England after Scots voted in every constituency to stay.

Sinn Fein has called for a border poll as a move to a united  Ireland. Meanwhile it is pointed out that all Northern Ireland’s citizens are entitled to a Republic of Ireland passport which guarantees them free movement and jobs in Europe.

Spain has made it clear that all citizens of Gibraltar – who voted heavily to remain – could have Spanish EU passports  if they took over joint sovereignty of the Rock. This means it could trigger a fresh crisis.

The promise of £350m a month for the NHS if the leave campaign one  has mysteriously disappeared.

Britain’s taxpayers have begun a new bail out for the banks with £250 billion of our money earmarked to defend the pound.

The result has been however been welcomed as an ” historic opportunity” in Iran. See this report in a  US pro  Jewish and Israeli website here. The Islamic state also thinks it is a good idea as they see great opportunities for dividing Europe.

In the last 24 hours the situation has worsened.

In Berlin the six founding fathers of the EU  met and decided they would not wait for a leisurely departure from Britain but ask the country to prepare to go this week.

Jonathan Hill ( Lord Hill) the British commissioner responsible for capital  and financial markets announced his resignation from July 15. He was the lynch pin for the EU’s relationships with the City of London. See a report here. he is being replaced by a Latvian with strong support for the Euro.

A major rating agency Moody’s has changed Britain’s credit rating to negative while also ruling that the Euro’s credit rating is positive – widening the gap between the two currencies.

Some British people living in Brussels ” in the know”  started applying for Belgian EU passports to ensure they had freedom of movement to apply for jobs in Europe. I wonder why?

What seems certain is that in short term prices are likely to go up but that is no problem for those Brexit supporters. some of them were celebrating their new freedom to buy bendy cucumbers without interference from Brussels.

I wonder how they will feel when Independence Day comes around next year.





Why I am going for Remain on Thursday

referendum pic credit BBC

Thursday is referendum day. Pic Credit:BBC


Tragic and horrible as the murder of Jo Cox  was I was relieved this weekend when there was a pause over campaigning for Thursday’s  EU referendum.

I have covered politics for many decades and actually voted in the last referendum to join the Common Market

Bur the standard of debate  on both sides of the argument this time  has been abysmal and exposed the poverty of argument. And it suggests the  calibre of politicians leading Britain has plummeted to a new low.

I don’t believe for one moment the claims from Cameron and Osborne that Britain is going to have huge tax hikes, even more austerity, plummeting house prices and a further squeeze on the NHS if we vote to leave the EU. It seems to be hyperbole gone mad.And anyway with the exception of house prices they have made a good job of doing this while we are a member of the EU.

But nor do I believe that the figures from Leave  that the NHS will gain  an extra £350m a week if we vote to go, that only immigrants rape people or that the whole of Europe is going to settle in the UK unless we take control of immigration.

Certainly if Farage is right it is going to be a funny old Europe, 364  million new immigrants in the UK and countries like Turkey, Roumania and Bulgaria with populations down to a couple of people who decided to stay. This is the politics of fear gone mad – one side of Europe being totally depopulated and the other side full to the brim. It will never happen.

The truth is neither side really knows what will happen. The pro Europe campaigners can’t be certain how a 28 country Europe will develop and those predicting a new Shangri-La if we leave haven’t a clue how Britain will develop outside a big trading bloc.

So it comes down to gut feeling and a basic set of beliefs.

For a start my ancestry is against Leave. I am British born but my ancestors are Dutch, German and Norwegian on my father’s side. I am Lithuanian, Polish, South African, and  Russian on my mother’s side. I am Protestant on my father’s side, Jewish on my mother’s side. Two of my grandchildren are Kurdish.

Frankly I am  rather proud to have such a diverse heritage and an even more diverse future  I have no time for little Englander  faux patriotism ( except probably at sporting events!)

But there is a wider issue about Europe. Yes some of the laws -particularly on employment, access for the disabled, and safe goods, clean beaches and climate change – are driven by the European Union.. And that is a good thing.

And one only has to go to Russia – as I have been recently – to see how countries outside the EU – are not disabled friendly.

I am also highly suspicious that the key pro leave campaigners – Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith – are te very people who have been driving  policies to deprive the disabled, cut benefits, put up the price of justice and destroy public services. Migrants make a great scapegoat for those dissatisfied with schools, housing and other public services.

And  I am little tired of the cliche Brussels bureaucrats. Why has nothing been said about the increasing role of the European Parliament in holding the European Commission in check or the idea that some of these top bureaucrats are going to face Europe wide elections for the first time.

Yes there is a lot wrong with Europe _ I am sceptical about whether the Eurozone can survive in its present form – and I certainly dislike plans for new international trade agreements which take away powers from elected governments  and use workers as commodities. But I am not convinced that the UK by itself can fight them any better by standing alone.

I also resent the idea that we have no control in Europe when as the fifth largest world economy we have a major say in all new EU initiatives outside the Eurozone.

So I will vote for Remain to continue sharing the government of Europe – home to my ancestors- and reject the  Boris Johnson ego trip of a faux Independence Day on Thursday.



How EU law hobbled Parliament investigating worst mis-selling scandal in history


The scandal of the mis-selling of Personal Protection Insurance is well known as one of the worst financial scandals in history.

Some 12 million people have received £22.5 billion in compensation from  unnecessary Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) schemes sold to gullible people.

And to compound it a National Audit Office report  (NAO) last week highlighted how cold calling claims management companies had ripped off £3.8 billion and £5 billion of the compensation paid for work which could be done by claimants for free.

What might also shock people – particularly in the current debate over whether we should quit the European Union – is the revelation by the NAO  that it could not complete the investigation  to its satisfaction because a European Union directive banned Parliament from getting confidential information. I have written about this in this week’s Tribune magazine.

The situation is this. As well as finding out the scale of the problem the NAO wanted to know -on behalf of you the taxpayer – whether the public watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority had done its job its ensuring the many banks and financial organisation had smartened up their acts to prevent a repetition.. Particularly as they are fears that there could be a new scandal involving the mis-selling of annuities and pension schemes.

The FCA had collected this information but refused to hand it over to Parliament’s watchdog.. The reason it turned out is that the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 combined with EU law restrictions prevents them obtaining the information from the FCA.

As the NAO said: “ This limits our ability to reach a judgement on the FCA’s value for money, as we could not carry out a full assessment of the effectiveness of the FCA’s actions…. we have only limited evidence on how the FCA’s actions have changed firm behaviour, and how effective its redress schemes have been in providing compensation to consumers.”

The NAO tried to get around this by contacting some 20 banks and financial companies and asking them to volunteer to disclose the information. Fifteen did reply but five including two of the companies with the largest number of complaints, Barclays and British Gas Services, declined to provide any information.

The 15 who did reply included HSBC Bank plc; Lloyds Banking Group; MBNA Limited; Nationwide Building Society; NFU Mutual Insurance Society and Santander UK plc.

But a NAO spokesman said: “The information we got from the others while helpful, didn’t enable us to carry out a full assessment of the effectiveness of the FCA’s actions.”

What  is the EU doing putting  the interests of banks above people and Parliament. The NAO is now asking the Treasury to pass a law allowing it some access to this information but it will have to bow to EU law on how much can be revealed.

I am not a supporter of Brexit but it seems to me there is something very wrong here that needs changing. I am surprised that the vociferous campaigners for a No vote have not latched on to this – even if it is in the small print of the report. The NAO is obviously an independent source with no axe to grind over Europe. But it has provided campaigners who say we are not in control of our country with a very potent example on a very serious issue.