The European Investment Bank

Yesterday I was asked onto the BBC World at One to explain how the UK will manage if we lose access to EIB loans. This was a rehash of a story Remain used in the referendum campaign.

Sir Brian Unwin did the usual thing of trying to undermine the UK position by telling us how crucial it will be to retain full membership of the EIB. He pointed out last year we received 10 % of the loans advanced. So many EU enthusiasts want us to have a whole list of demands like staying in this bank which would force us to offer all sorts of compromises we have no need to make.

The UK has put up 16% of the capital so it has not got its full proportion of the loans. Over the time we have been in we have received 8% of the lending, half our share of the capital.

We could offer a simple choice to our former EU partners. Either we stay in the Bank, and they need to promise a reasonable share of the loans for us, or they buy us out.
Our shares amount to around £12bn taking starting capital and share of accumulated reserves. This would enable us to set up our own Investment Bank. If it borrowed and geared on the same basis as the EIB it would enable us to lend another £100 bn or so for good projects.

If they wish us to stay in we need to remember we are liable to supply another £36 bn if they lose money and need capital top up. The EIB earns small margins on its asset base and has substantial gearing. It is certainly not worth offering anything in order to stay in.

It owns investments in government bonds, which it could sell to buy the UK out. The UK would probably be better off out controlling our own money, but we could life with a continuing shareholding in the EIB if they want that. WEx woukd need to take a continuing interest in the management if the bank given our underwriting if the bank

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56 Comments

  1. Anthony
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it possible the EU/EIB listens to the offer and says that they aren’t doing either? Can they be forced to buy us out or would we be sitting on the sidelines wailing that they didn’t play fair?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Well, the EU treaties say:

      “The members of the European Investment Bank shall be the Member States.”

      so something will have to change.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Dear Denis–Presumably “Member States” is defined. To me at least, it is not quite a given, though I agree it is very likely, that the term means “…..of the EU”. It cannot mean “using the Euro” else we could not be where we are. Those of us who love Europe but detest the EU and all its works might continue to hope (and why not?) that it means “of Europe”.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          “Member States” as in:

          “By this Treaty, the HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES establish among themselves a EUROPEAN UNION, hereinafter called “the Union” on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common.”

          That’s “Member States whose currency is the euro” plus “Member States with a derogation” which have not yet joined the euro.

  2. alan jutson
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Perhaps I am a little dim.

    Why are we (the taxpayer) investing in a Bank for the benefit of other Countries.

    Do we make any money out of the loans that are given out given you suggest we have put up 16% of the capital.

    If so how much?

    or

    Is our capital at risk if others default ?

  3. Posted October 21, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    To add to your excellent piece above, your readers may be interested to know that the EIB now calls itself “The EU Bank”. It started with 66 staff and now employs over 2,700 in Mr Juncker’s hometown of Luxembourg. The UK has underwritten €91 billion of its loans. And more than 10% of its loans go to non-EU countries.

    There has been some disquiet over the quality of its loans and we strongly believe that the UK should exit the EIB as part of Brexit.

    Best wishes, the Facts4EU.org team (http://facts4eu.org/news.shtml)

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 21, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Crikey–Can this last be true? I had taken some solace that at least it was the European rather than the EU Investment Bank but apparently no longer so. I cannot begin to imagine why we or anybody else for that matter, though that is a different story, should have anything to do with it. BTW does America for instance have “an” Investment Bank? It may do but if so (with a lifetime in American banking) I have never heard of such a thing.

    • David Lister
      Posted October 21, 2016 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

      The EIB isn’t the only bank to have offered dubious business loans. Is there any evidence that they are more, or less, risky than the UK banks that have been bailed out?

      As for the statement that the number of employees has grown from a small number. That is the case for all business if you take their start-up staff numbers as a reference. I work in a company that employs thousands, but it too started with a handful of people.

    • acorn
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      The UK has borrowed the equivalent of €115 billion Euro from the EIB in the last five decades. The UK has borrowed €53 billion since the crash of 2008. You will find the EIB is the Mayor of London’s favourite Bank – including funding for TfL and Boris Bicycles, plus another 1300 odd UK projects over those decades.

      The UK has underwritten circa 16% of its loan book. The UK is fifth in the list of borrowers at about 8%. If I remember Spain is the highest at about 12%. The EIB has only called up 10% of its subscribed capital, from its sovereign currency issuing member state owners and the ECB, (that is €3.5 billion for the UK).

      Leaving the EIB would be dumb, OK?

      Reply We could gear our share money from the EIB to lend ourselves more!

  4. oldtimer
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    I heard this programme. Unwin’s comments were indeed an example of yet more project fear calculated to spread alarm and despondency among the uninformed – namely most those listening. You provided a necessary and welcome demolition of his case.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 21, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      Indeed.

  5. James Wallace-Dunlop
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    We would be much better taking our capital back. Not only as, typical in the EU, we out in twice what we get out, but as eurozone government bonds will loose value when the ECB stops buying them.

    On a related point, I mention that the EU generally operates only income & expenditure accounts. It does not work with an actuarial balance sheet, but now talks of wanting the UK to meet its share of off pension liabilities. If we are to take on ‘our share’ of balance sheet liabilities (actually off balance sheet liabilities given the way the EU accounts for these things), we must receive our share of the assets (buildings in Brussels & Strasbourg, ’embassies’ abroad, cars, computers, etc). What is ‘our share’ of those assets? I suggest that as they are funded by nations’ net contruuibutions to the EU, our ownership should be in line with our disproportionate share of the net contributions we have paid in.

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Indeed the all powerful forces for remain are still working hard to prevent any Brexit all cheered on by the BBC. They are not being challenged sufficiently.

    Clegg even claimed that food prices would rise on Brexit? Clearly he understands nothing about how the UE, CAP and the external tariffs work.

    Of course things could be far better still if May made some sensible decisions for a change.
    Dithering on runways, hs2, Hinkley, workers customers on boards, gender pay reporting ….. all hugely damaging.

    Rather pathetic of MPs to debate Philip Green’s honours. The issue is mainly the fault of the laws and pension system that MPs put in place and the failure of regulators they appointed. What P Green did was entirely legal it seems. The question surely is why was it legal and why did the pension trustees and regulators fail to protect the pensions. Did the system prevent them. The government’s artificial suppression of annuity rates has not helped either.

    Reece Mogg is clearly right, it is an abuse of parliament to even debate this. Have they nothing better to do?

  7. Nigl
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I do not know their rusk profile but low return possible political lending makes me nervous. I would want to do due diligence on their book to see how much of the 45 billion I might be in hock to before deciding. Equally if we can leverage more solely for U.K. Projects then why support other countries?

  8. James Wallace-Dunlop
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    We would be much better taking our capital back. Not only as, typical in the EU, we put in twice what we get out, but as eurozone government bonds will loose value when the ECB stops buying them.

    On a related point, I mention that the EU generally operates only income & expenditure accounts. It does not work with an actuarial balance sheet, but now talks of wanting the UK to meet its share of pension liabilities. If we are to take on ‘our share’ of balance sheet liabilities (actually off balance sheet liabilities given the way the EU accounts for these things), we must receive our share of the assets (buildings in Brussels & Strasbourg, ’embassies’ abroad, cars, computers, etc). What is ‘our share’ of those assets? I suggest that as they are funded by nations’ net contributions to the EU, our ownership should be in line with our disproportionate share of the net contributions we have paid in.

  9. Posted October 21, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Well done for exploding yet more Remain lies with cold hard facts!

  10. Lifelogic
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    So two new MPs, both I suspect remainers. I cannot help thinking the Tories had quite enough lawyers, barristers and ex-councilors in the house already. Perhaps Robert Courts can prove me wrong. A significantly reduced majority, even against pathetic Libdem & Labour opposition.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      He voted Leave.
      Seems actually very sensible face-to-face.

      The Libdem candidate here was more like the Cameron replacement, strangely. She presumably owns a paper mill from the amount of paper falling through letter boxes in the past week or so (I thought they were against this type of thing). I hope some of it fell back through her letter box.

      No mention anywhere on her literature of them calculating to subvert democracy – it was mainly tosh about roads and houses which she was hoping to avoid building. It’s a shame she didn’t get challenged as to how that’s supposed to happen with her policy of uncontrolled immigration.

  11. agricola
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Well John at least they invited you.

    I do not know anything about that level of banking, but instinctively ,and knowing a little about the state of the EU it smells dodgy. I assume it is a bank backed with no solid reserves, gold etc., contributed to by other banks that equally have no solid reserves so is reliant on the goodwill of countries with successful economies. How can it repay the lenders when some of the borrowers go up in economic smoke. Print more money I suppose.

  12. Christopher Hudson
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    There’s a long way to go yet

  13. acorn
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Be fair JR, it earns small margins because it is a “non-profit” bank. The UK has never agreed to all its six lending strategies, such as Regional Cohesion and Convergence and the EU Transport and Energy networks. But we did manage to qualify for loans for Crossrail and Metrolink despite Osborne austerity!

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    “The UK has put up 16% of the capital so it has not got its full proportion of the loans. Over the time we have been in we have received 8% of the lending, half our share of the capital.”

    Funny how the Remain side forgets to mention this, like so many other things.

  15. Posted October 21, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I’m no expert in this field but taking your comments at face value, it appears that the EIB operates in a similar way to the EU budget : member countries contribute and then have to make applications to get some of their own money back and, as with the EU budget, we put far more in than we get back.

    Two issues are of real concern : one the liabilities and the second the amount of loans granted to Britain. (Although it might well be that we don’t ask for any more than the 8% of the available capital).

    Like the EU budget, it would clearly be much better for the UK to make a clean break with the EIB and set up our own Investment Bank, if we actually need one.

    Laughable comments from that political minnow Farron on the result of the Whitney by-election : He said that the LibDems are “back in the political big time” and it represented a “return to three-party politics”. He even tried to suggest the LibDem result marked a rejection of Hard Brexit !

    Dream on Mr Farron.

  16. Antisthenes
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    The UK has joined the Asian IB I understand and we are not part of an Asian single market or union project. It will have done so after accessing the political and economic advantage of doing so. Surely the EIB membership is after Brexit going to be judged in exactly the same way. So we will stay in or not depending on the conditions prevailing at that time. My advice would to be leave it as unlike the AIB it is high risk given the parlous state of the EU.

  17. APL
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    It’s a terrible pity to see Theresa May joining in the warmongering with Clinton, and Biden between them agitating for war.

    It is outrageous to suggest that Russia has hacked the US democratic national convention servers, firstly their data security is abysmal. Everyone and anyone seems to have been able to get access to their systems, they appear to have stored sensitive information in the ‘cloud’ too. Which from a data security point of view is reckless beyond belief.

    Secondly, the sleight of hand Clinton has tried, by implying that the US government is the DNC. It is not, although after eight years of Obama Clinton and Biden it may to all intents and purposes be one.

    Etc ed

  18. Bert Young
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    The EIB is a poor and risky investment . Like all investments if they perform badly and continuously below expectations they should be “sold”. The original decision to be a shareholder was a more political than economic one – a foolish act in the first place . We have no reason now – politically or economically , to be a part of it , so , sell and be rid of the headache .

  19. David Edwards
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I noticed that at the end of world at one yesterday in the summary they simply reiterated Sir Brian’s opinion rather than balance it with some of the things you had explained.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      I initially read that as “The End of the World At One”!

  20. Mockbeggar
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I’ve listened carefully to both you and Sir Brian Unwin and I also listened this morning to Lord Hill on the Today programme. The more I listen to politicians and grand civil servants (yourself honourably excepted), whether they come from this country or other EU countries, the more I realise how much they are clutching at straws when it comes to trade. Let’s face it, once we leave, most interraction with our neighbours will be not via politicians, but between businesses and the people who run them.

    We have heard a number of small and medium sized business people telling us how exports have picked up since the pound went down. (Indeed, this is partly the same reason why Germany has such a huge trade balance with the rest of the Euro area because they were allowed to join with the Deutsche Mark seriously undervalued against other currencies. The difference is that their exchange rate is locked in to the Euro, whereas ours will float.)

    In other words, politicians (and their Civil Servants) on both sides can see their powers to intervene – and interfere – with inter-business dealings diminishing and they’re trying to stop it. Believe me, I was exporting British goods to Poland before they joined the EU and, apart from some frustratingly slow bureaucracy, price was the factor that governed success or failure.

    • Chris S
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Politicians and senior civil servants who supported Remain will soon become enthusiasts for Brexit when they start going on expensive junkets to far away holiday destinations to discuss trade and all the other interests we will be taking back from the EU.

      After all, spending time in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Caribbean will be a lot more attractive than taking long day trips to Brussels !

    • Mitchel
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Mockbeggar,re your last paragraph,exactly!The EU and the UK establishments are nothing more than self-serving bureaucracies;at least the EU never pretended to be otherwise.With the EU fig leaf removed ours will be shown for what it is.

  21. graham1946
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    This may sound like a silly question, but on the basis that an old teacher of mine said no question was silly if you don’t know the answer but wish to learn, here goes.

    Why do we have on deposit £12 bn as our share in order to borrow £8bn?

    Also, don’t we have an institution called The Bank of England who are sitting on whats left of our gold reserves? Can’t we get money from them or get them to print some for the people who want the roads mended rather than prop up the banks with free cash thereby causing low or non existent rates of interest on our savings?

    Seems to me that we have yet again joined something which costs us money in order to help foreigners and with the risk of the EU imploding and landing us with a liability of £36bn.

    Are you sure our politicians are all sane?

    Reply Out of the EU we dont have to subscribe capital. The Uk can borrow its own money.

    • graham1946
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Thanks, John. So it’s another EU condition of being a member then. Yet another reason to leave. The list of hidden stuff our politicians tied us in to for the benefit of foreigners and the detriment of the British people seems never ending.

  22. formula57
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Ditching the EIB in favour of a new ICFC would be a good thing, it seems to me, as would causing the Unwin character to revert to plain Mr..

  23. Lifelogic
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Hopefully we or the EIB did not fund the European Space Agency and the Schiaparelli trip to Mars too much.

    When government talk of “investment” we all know what they usually mean. Bonkers things like HS2, Hinkley C, pointless space missions, grants landowners for pointless greencrap, silly PR gimmicks and the likes.

    Rarely anything sensible that gives a real and sensible return or improves the quality of people’s lives. Even when it is sensible they do it so incompetently & inefficiently that it rarely makes sense.

    What for example what the (cost in MPs and others time) of the bonkers debate of Philip Green’s knighthood. The blame rest far more at the foot of the MP’s and the pension regulators anyway. Several million I imagine, what was achieved? Are they proud of themselves? Many were the same people who were fiddling their expenses a while back.

  24. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    The link to the BBC World at One broadcast is below. Start it in at 26:58 It continues to 32:18.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07z3cnk

    I do not recall such overwhelming interest and detail by the media at the time we were called upon to get into the Common Market. Little reference to banking and finance as such. It was merely pointed out the main opponents to membership were on the “extreme” of politics; namely, Enoch Powell on the Right and Tony Benn on the Left.
    We are still awaiting parity with what we were told, repeatedly, was the nine weeks holiday entitlement of workers in some European countries.

  25. BobE
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Did you convince him?

  26. forthurst
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Let us withdraw our money from the EIB and use it to create a Sovereign wealth fund; when some foreign spiv outfit threatens to buy up a British company, they could be overruled by law and the assets transfered to the new Fund at a price corresponding to that which pertained before the company was ‘in play’, putting them beyond the reach of predators. Foreign companies would still be at liberty to invest in new operations or those needing to be turned around. This would not be popular with foreign banksters or others seeking short term capital gains but would have wide popular support.

    etc ed

    • forthurst
      Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      Apparently, Yanis Varoufakis was on QT last night, describing our Brexit ministerial team as ‘low iq’; although an analysis of the heaving masses who voted for Brexit demonstrates a preponderance of C, D, E persons, it was not exclusively so, and coming from a Greek economist and former Economic Minster who has not yet understood that Greece needs to leave the Euro, if not the EU, if it ever wants to prosper again, it surely is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

      Reply Boris had a distinguished academic career as a young man, and Liam Fox qualified as a doctor!

  27. Prigger
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    “…asked to explain…how the UK will manage ..”

    This is one leitmotif of the Remainers>>>” how will we manage? ” The real question should be ” When,at what stage, in our history have we ever seriously thought and with some range of desperation implicit in the question “How will we manage?”

    Dunkirk springs to mind. The Battle of Britain springs to mind.
    It is unclear what minor or major European countries singularly or collectively were in practice necessary for us “to manage.”.

  28. Richard Butler
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    John, posters elsewhere are claiming we pay nothing into the EIB, never have, that it’s pure benefit for us without contribution. Having hard time digging up the facts on whether we pay in, so if you have a source link, please post up.

    Reply The annual accounts show we subscribed capital as I cited.

  29. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Do we need a State owned investmment bank? If we lose EIB membership, can’t we just leave it at that?

    EBRD is essentially a disperser of foreign aid within Europe. The usual objections to foreign aid apply.

  30. E.S. Tablishment
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Remainers have it we get so very much from the EU/EIB.
    Therefore we owe it to the EU, to every EU nation and the populations of their countries to leave straightway. We are a tremendous economic burden to them. So they are bound to not argue the toss and will leave us to stand on our own two feet without their charitable assistance.

  31. Cpt Mannering
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Off Topic:
    ” A flotilla of Russian warships is sailing down the Channel on its way to Syria. Obviously it is there to test us.” ( BBC today ) ( eight vessels ).
    Sack our Defence Minister! Immediately!
    What a waste of British manpower, fuel and ships!
    What modern military brain would , as an act of ….aggression , place eight of its ships in the 22 mile wide English Channel at one go.? A killing field of those ships by British, French, Belgian, Dutch , German, Danish, Finnish, Irish ships, helicopters, planes and shore missile fire etc etc.?
    Make the Defence Minister pay the costs of the British response from his salary as he hands in his resignation. Tell him to get a map. It’s the quickest and safest way for the Russian ships to journey to Syria. That the Channel is an Internationally recognised travelway.Check him for drugs, Trump-style.
    Buffoon!

    • James Matthews
      Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      “A killing field of those ships by British, French, Belgian, Dutch , German, Danish, Finnish, Irish ships, helicopters, planes and shore missile fire etc etc.?

      Well I[m glad you aren’t relying on our depleted Navy and Air force on their own, but if we have to draft in Finland (rather a long way away) and Ireland (not noted for its maritime power and determinedly neutral) we may still be in trouble.

      More seriously, international route or not, there is an implicit message in sending an aircraft carrier to Syria via that route, under the noses of a country which has none at present and no aircraft for the two it is building. Diplomacy by other means.

      • acorn
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        There is an equivalent American fleet sailing through the Strait of Hormuz, going nowhere. Just giving the finger to the Iranians.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      It’s nothing really, by a maritime agreement alongside the Convention of Cintra a trapped Russian fleet was not only unnecessarily allowed to leave the Tagus in Portugal but also put into British ports on its way back home when it could attack the Swedes, and that caused a real upset.

      “… I say it was the noble lord himself, who introduced the principle, and that it is owing to him we have had the mortification of seeing Russian ships enter our ports in any other situation than as prizes … ”

      “… The letter which was intended to guide his conduct, was not received until long after the Armistice was signed – an Armistice by which the men and officers on board the Russian fleet were sent, not to assist the French against the Spaniards, but to assist the Russians against our faithful allies the Swedes … “

    • Mitchel
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Sky TV,in their usual war drum beating way, seemed to think Russian ships passing peacefully through an international waterway(their course already advised as far as I could understand)amounts to a “standoff”.

      You never know,without our magnificent navy coming to the rescue they might have made a slight detour into the Thames for a little light shelling.

  32. bigneil
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    OT
    Has the clearly inept person who selected these blatantly fake “children” from Calais lost their job yet – WITHOUT a payoff – – -THEY SHOULD DO.

  33. fedupsoutherner
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Theresa May is in Brussels and it is being reported that the bumptious upstarts in charge have practically dismissed the UK and don’t want us to take part in talks. If that is the case we should say to them, don’t have our money then. Who wants to be part of a club that treat us with such disdain. The sooner we tell them the real score, the better.

  34. fedupsoutherner
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    From what you are saying John, it doesn’t seem that the EIB is very positive for us. Yet again we are throwing good money after bad.

  35. Zero Tolerance
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    On Topic:

    The BBC & Sky News view a small region of Belgium thwarting a whole Canada/EU trade deal, years in the making, of evidence,perversely, as a negative for Brexit.

    Normal people would assume that a major trade deal with the massive Canada and the less than huge EU by comparison, would indicate an absolute negative for the EU. But no, to the BBC and Sky News it shows, somehow, we should be a member of the EU
    which, cannot speak to Canada. Well, Canada speaks English and French and is a gateway to trade with America. Should we act as interpreter to that part of the English language Belgium does not understand?

    etc ed

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