Britain: Big shout for Europe's tiny states

If you want to see the Continent at its most civilised, go to Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino or the Isle of Man, argues Cleo Paskal.

At a time when EU centralising is driving regions to clamour for more self-determination (and the right to produce culturally important cheeses), Europe's microstates are a shining beacon to disestablishmentarianists everywhere. They thumbed their turned-up noses at the "big is better" trend, and as a result are doing much better than their cumbersome neighbours.

In the same way that Monaco is saner than France, Andorra does better than Spain. It nestles in the Pyrenees, between France and Spain, and for years the avowed mainstay of the economy was "trans-shipments of goods" (smuggling). It was once described as "a cross between Shangri-La and Heathrow Duty Free". In typical small-country style, the government safeguarded its farmers from being wiped out in the flood of foreign goods by insisting that foreign tobacco companies that wished to sell in Andorra had first to buy up Andorra's entire crop of (unspeakably vile) tobacco. The country is now largely a congenial tax haven, with excellent skiing.

San Marino is treated with reverence (and not a little bit of envy) by the rest of Italy. Not only does the oldest republic in the world have to import labour from Italy, its citizens also pay lower taxes (and they really do pay them) and get better benefits. Corruption is closely and effectively monitored and voter fraud is unknown.

Liechtenstein, erstwhile false-teeth-production capital of Europe, is another haven of free, high-quality education and health care. Its citizens are provided with an eiderdown-padded social net through secret (and lucrative) banking procedures that make Switzerland look as discreet as my uncle Joe after four Scotches. They generated additional funds from having made the entire country a heavily ticketed pay-for-parking zone. Tourists just driving though often end up paying a "but officer I just left my car here for a second while I ran in to get a postcard of your beautiful country" tax.

Just in case you are feeling a bit smug about the New Britain, drop in on the Isle of Man. Often described as England in the Fifties, it is comparably safe, friendly and beautiful, though also, in true Fifties style, homophobic. State schools deliver quality education and best of all, there are no speed limits and excellent kippers.

So next time Brussels sprouts some no-brainer about how homogenity is good for Europe, mumble under your breath, "oh yeah? Well then, how come San Marino's entire penal system consists of six generally empty prison cells". Or, better yet, declare your house an independent nation.

With no speed limits.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Pre School Practitioner

£6 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, they are loo...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development & Relationship Manager

£45000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development & Relati...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant - Startup

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Personal Assistant is require...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back