In or out? No one seemingly knows if, or when, the UK will depart from the EU. (This blog will be updated as new information about the Brexit process becomes available.)
Following Theresa May's visit to the EU summit, the official deadline for the UK's departure from the EU is now the 31st of October, 2019. The UK can leave prior to this date if an agreement is made. For now, we'll have to sit tight and hope that progress is made in parliament. In the meantime, all regulations will stay the same, giving everyone a little breathing (or vaping) room.
Britain's torturous exit from its many decades of membership from the European Union can often seem like an endless nightmare for businesses of all kinds in the UK, including those like us in the vaping sector, where we sell popular box mods and many other types of vaping gear to the public. The uncertainty since the tumultuous June 2016 vote — which rocked the country, wider Europe and indeed the world — has never really lifted, and just as we thought we were reaching a conclusion with the exit date at the end of March this year, everything changed again.
So are we, or aren't we, leaving? Bizarrely, after all the talk and negotiations in the intervening years, it's still hard to know.
Brexit has been called the biggest crisis to hit the United Kingdom since World War II — and seems set to become a full-blown national emergency if our four-nation country crashes out of the EU without a deal covering how trade is conducted, customs handled, the movement of people and more agreements essential to doing business and living without such potential disastrous disruptions as a halt to imports of food and medicines. Companies have in increasing numbers been bailing out of Britain and setting up shop in European countries — and even big-name backers of Brexit have been jumping ship and establishing their large business concerns in other parts of the world.
Crucially for the vaping industry in the UK, which is a large and growing sector now worth some £1 billion, various EU legislation would no longer apply if we leave with no deal, including the Tobacco Products Directive and the Tobacco Advertising Directive. Should that happen, however, the UK would remain part of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and all its many directives. Currently, we're subject to EU rules on bottle sizes, nicotine levels and other aspects of vape gear, but that could all change. But as the deal is still being negotiated, it's not yet possible to say what changes might be in store for the EU vaping sector. Some MPs have said that keeping the EU's Tobacco Products Directive somewhat intact is a priority, rather than starting from scratch.
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All Talk, No Action: The Conservative and Labour leaders sparring in the House of Commons, long before their parties started to fall apart as MPs quit due to differences over Brexit policies. (Photo: UK Parliament)[/caption]
The government of Prime Minister Theresa May assured the public after the Brexit referendum, in which 52% voted to leave the EU and 48% voted to stay — a slim and decisive margin that has sent the UK into rolling convulsions — that all sorts of deals would be hammered out in the days and months to come. Years later, not a single agreement has been reached, on trade, travel or anything else, leaving the public, and businesses, perplexed.
And even when the PM managed to get her own Brexit deal agreed to in Brussels, parliamentarians failed to ratify the accord and have repeatedly thrown it out. If politicians, who are supposed to be working for their constituents and the greater good of the national interest, can't work it out, and our partners Europe are left scratching their heads, just where is it all going to end?
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Winds of Change: European Union supporters gather in London on a blustery day. (Photo by John Cameron
We asked some of our colleagues what their feelings are about Brexit, and to sum up the tectonic exit process in one word. "Chaos", said one; "shambolic", declared another; "suicidal" opined someone else, while another said the process was "confusing" because she hadn't a "clue what's happening and when". Another said she was "disappointed" by the entire, protracted affair, while one person branded it a milder “insidious”. Few, it seems, have anything good to say about Britain’s departure from the EU.
Another colleague said there were parallels between when Britain joined what was then the European Economic Community [EEC], in 1973, and its current attempt to get out of the bloc of 28 member nations. "My dad voted in the join-[EEC] vote — he voted not to join," she said. "But in the Brexit vote, he voted to remain. He said the first vote was similar — not a lot of information about what the impact would be."
What's on the Brexit Table?
So far, all we can say with any degree of surety, amid a great mountain of uncertainty that's doing little for business and consumer confidence in this country, is that the UK will have a large bill if it does ever withdraw. It will amount to a gargantuan £39 billion, in the event of a no-deal exit, due to an array of agreements and funding the UK was already tied into and has to contribute to.
There is also the question of what happens to the estimated 1.3 million Brits living in various countries in Europe, with a large number permanently based in such sunspots as France and Spain — as well as the fate of the many citizens of European countries who have made the UK their home. The latter is a lingering Brexit puzzle that has prompted some EU nationals to quit their jobs in various parts of the UK, sell their homes and leave the country, for good. It’s a Brexodus that shows no sign of abating and is robbing the country of key personnel such as doctors and nurses at the already staff-strained NHS.
Another Brexit headache is what happens to what would be the UK's only direct border with the EU, on the island of Ireland. The so-called "hard border", separating British Northern Ireland from former British colony the Republic of Ireland, was removed following decades of bloodshed during the sectarian conflict as part of the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, which has largely brought about peace in the restive province. Not only did it remove borders, but it also allowed for the free-flow of goods, but under a Brexit, the EU could not allow such an unchecked scenario. The government's so-called “backstop” in Northern Ireland, as part of its Brexit proposal, has so far not won over any Brexiteers in the Tory party as they see the apparent insurance solution as essentially staying in the EU forever.
Are We At a Brexit Dead-End?
Mrs May's hopes of bringing her Brexit deal to parliament for the third time of asking and finally getting it passed were dashed in mid-March when Speaker John Bercow ruled that she couldn't keep coming back with the same question for MPs to vote on, as it was essentially wasting House time when other matters were also pressing. She would, he said, have to amend her "meaningful vote" before it could be considered for another ballot.
It's almost as if there are so many elements piling onto the Brexit puppet that no one knows quite how to pull the strings in harmony and make it dance, or even walk. And it seems that with talks and negotiations deadlocked — the EU says it has already agreed a deal and won't be discussing another one — the entire tooth-pulling process has come to a grinding halt.
Is it now time, as many hope, to put the question back to the people and hold a second referendum — now that we are so much wiser about the facts than before the original vote, when many people were scared or pressed into voting "leave" by convenient untruths plastered across a big red bus that paraded up and down the country and that got widespread media coverage?
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Brexit Bus(ted): Many people who voted to leave the EU did so based on what have now been debunked as falsehoods sold as reasons to exit the bloc. (Photo: Shutterstock)[/caption]
Brexit and Dipping Consumer Confidence
For companies like ours, which sell to the public, the deep uncertainty of Brexit is certainly not helping business or consumer confidence. Almost everyone is adopting a wait-and-see stance as the lengthy process gradually unfolds, and even if it might be rolled back altogether. This can be investment and expansion plans put on hold, as no one knows what might happen with Brexit and its impact; and for consumers, it can mean keeping a firm hold on the purse strings and not making any unnecessary purchases.
Our business, selling e-cigarettes, e-liquid and other vaping supplies, to people in the UK and around Europe — as well as our sister company operating in the United States market — has nonetheless been thriving as more people switch to vapes instead of unhealthy smoking. But with the real stresses of Brexit and what it could mean for the ordinary person, it's certainly possible that a lot of current smokers are unwilling to give up the "crutch" they're relying on in this difficult climate and make the investment in vape kits to get off cigarettes for good. And that would be a real shame — not for us and our business, so much, but their health.
As organisations such as the NHS and Public Health England have noted, using vape kits to start vaping is one of the most sure-fire ways of giving up tobacco — smokers get the nicotine they want and avoid the many thousands of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals given off by burning tobacco. Getting your hands on the best e-cig for you is as easy as heading to your nearest vape shop or — even easier — ordering with a few clicks at an online vape store.
What's Next for Protracted Brexit?
With no apparent answer to Britain's Brexit woes, it seems as though a delay could be the only real option. Whether that's a few months or a couple of years is anyone's guess, and while the UK had written into law that the country would leave the EU on March 29, it had a tentative agreement with Brussels to have a Brelay (Brexit delay). Such an extension would, however, require a nod from the heads of every member of the EU.
In the meantime, anything could happen — the government could fall, triggering a new general election that might position Labour to take control and perhaps stage a "people's vote". Or perhaps Mrs May will give up and return the question to the public, and in doing so get a final, definitive answer on Britain's future in Europe.
Whatever happens, we will just have to keep calm and carry on, vaping.
Get all the best vaping supplies in the UK — and across the wider Europe, whether Brexit happens or not — at the great Electric Tobacconist online store. Free UK and EU shipping on orders over certain amounts, and the best prices always!