Tom, I agree - the vast majority will return home eventually. I wasn't suggesting that they would be staying for life, only using it as one example to refute the absurd notion that Britain wants to keep people away and uses high taxation etc as a method of doing so...

There are 25 countries in the EU - so you will always find somewhere where a particular item is cheaper. But yes, certain consumer items such as cars are generally more expensive, but that's mainly the car manufacturers taking advantage of EU rules that largely exempt them from normal EU trade regulations that would otherwise make it a criminal offence. They have reduced the price difference in recent years and the prices are now more competitive (but still a little high). Other items such as booze and cigs attract special taxes, but the vast majority of goods either attract standard VAT at 17.5% or none at all. Any difference must then be attributable to either the manufacturer, distributor or retailer taking a larger cut, or the differences in exchange rates (Sterling has been trading historically high for some years now as the UK economy has grown at a higher rate than most of the other G8 countries, increasing the cost of imports). If we had joined the Euro, it would be easier to make a direct comparison.

Other than in a few cases, I am not convinced by the "Rip-Off Britain" argument. I think it's largely more of a "the grass is always greener" effect than anything else. Ask a Scandinavian how much they pay for beer, ask a French businessman how much his company pays in local and national taxes in the form of "social payments", or ask a Dutchman about his petrol bill... It's swings and roundabouts, IMO...

The NHS is "free at the point of supply" to use the original term used to sell the idea to the people in the 1940's. Obviously, it has to be paid for from somewhere. I for one would rather pay through taxes than have to rely on private Health Insurance and never be sure if I have sufficient coverage in the event of accident or serious illness, or if I lose my job and can no longer afford the payments etc, etc... Stuff that for a lark!

Cheers, Bob.