Brexit – Why I am voting to leave the EU

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Brexit – Why I am voting to leave the EU

Despite the relentless smears and insults hurled at me (and millions of others) over the past few months I am neither a xenophobe nor a Little Englander. I have travelled widely, most of my friends are not British, I choose to live abroad, and (as anyone who has ever spoken to me will testify) I am not even English. I have never voted for UKIP and never will. Nevertheless, my vote in tomorrow’s referendum is for Brexit. I would like you to vote the same way, so here is my final appeal for you to end this misguided and destructive experiment.

This is 2016, not 1945

The EU was founded to put an end to the wars that had wracked Europe since at least the Celtic confederation in the late Bronze Age, and probably earlier. The idea was that if European nations could be bound together into a single organisation they would stop fighting each other. It was a noble idea, born of a sincere wish to end war – but note that, from the very beginning, it was a political project and not an economic one.

When Jean Monnet and others set out to found what became the EU, they were not trying to create a free trade area. They were trying to create a single federal state, with the former nations of Europe as its county councils. We know this, because they admitted it quite openly. Their successors still do. Listen to politicians from anywhere in Europe, and in the EU itself, and they are perfectly clear about the EU’s goal: To turn itself into a state. The only people who deny this are the project’s British supporters – and even there the mask occasionally slips.

Clarke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course preventing war is a good idea; the consequences of armed conflict are horrific, as I have personally seen many times. But we already have a perfectly good way of preventing war among Europe’s nations and it isn’t the EU. It’s NATO. Anyone attacking a NATO member state faces immediate and overwhelming retaliation from the combined power of the alliance. Then there’s the fact that, of the EU member states, only Britain and France have enough military power left to fight a war anyway. War, at least within the EU’s leaky borders, is a 20th century problem. The 21st century poses different problems – and the EU is spectacularly inept at handling them.

The EU is anti-democratic

Not undemocratic; actually anti-democratic. The institutions of the EU were set up to avoid the inconvenient problem of what people want being different to what the EU wants to give them. This is why the power to create new laws is held, unlike in every democratic government in the world, by unelected Commissioners instead of elected MPs. It is why the European Parliament is set up to let small nations outvote larger ones – Luxembourg has an MEP for every 76,000 people, while the UK has one for every 850,000. It is why national vetoes – the ability of a government to protect its own country from harmful EU laws – have been relentlessly whittled away.

Parliamentary democracy is not perfect, but it’s far better than rule by unelected technocrats. Remainers will bleat, “But the EU is elected governments!” No it isn’t. What happened to the elected governments of Greece, Spain and Italy when they dared to challenge the EU? They were swept aside and replaced by Brussels appointees. Our government is no longer sovereign. It can’t even abolish tax on tampons without begging permission from its unelected masters in the EU.

The status quo is not on offer

One of the most common Remain arguments is “Nobody can tell us what a post-Brexit UK would be like”. This is transparent rubbish. Even if we ignore the fact that for all but 43 years of this nation’s long history we were outside the EU, there’s no mystery at all about what a non-EU country is like. The world, after all, is full of them.

Of course you won’t hear that from the Remain crowd, who insist that if we leave we have to be like Norway, Switzerland or – bizarrely – North Korea, but it’s true. A small fraction of the world’s nations are in the EU; joining the majority is nothing to fear.

The same cannot be said for remaining an EU member. The In side talk about the referendum as if it’s a choice between stability and a wild leap into the dark. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we leave we know how that works; we’ll just be another independent country, albeit one with a large economy and a degree of global influence that has few rivals. If we don’t leave, however, what will we be facing?

Remain don’t know. Neither do I. What we do know is that it is not stability. It is not the status quo. And it definitely isn’t a reformed EU. Reform is not an option that anyone in Brussels is considering, and indeed Jean-Claude Juncker has just explicitly ruled it out. There will be no more renegotiations, he told the British people today. Reform is not going to happen.

Instead the EU is determined to carry on down the same path that’s brought us to where we are now – more integration; more centralisation; more power for the EU at the expense of elected governments. It’s no secret that the EU has put a lot of activity on hold until after tomorrow because they’re worried it will affect the outcome of the referendum. Why might it affect the outcome of the referendum? Because we’re going to hate it, they know we’re going to hate it and they don’t care.

Thanks to leaks and whistleblowers we do know some of what’s coming. There will be a new, Europe-wide tax ID number. This has only one possible use: To make it easier to collect a future, EU-wide tax. Don’t we pay enough tax already?

Then there’s the EU army which Remainers are so quick to assure us will never happen. The truth is it’s already happening, as the Dutch military is steadily absorbed into the Bundeswehr  and other countries consider the same option. We might hate the idea of an EU army, because our own military is still (just) capable of fighting independently, but to many EU members it’s a very attractive idea. It means they can slash defence spending even further while still having a vaguely credible force to call on. The EU has been working busily on plans for a joint military for the last 18 months and detailed proposals will be presented this summer. This is not “fantasy”, as Remain campaigners airily dismiss it; it’s what the EU wants to happen, and if they can get 16 supporting votes it’s what’s going to happen.

Not worried about defence but care about the NHS? That’s at risk too. Even if the TTIP doesn’t tear it apart the EU itself wants to take control of healthcare – they believe it’s best organised at a European level.

If you vote for Brexit you know what you’re going to get – the same independence, freedom and opportunity as Australia, Canada, Japan or any other wealthy democratic country has. But if you vote Remain you’re staring into an abyss with an undemocratic federal state at the bottom. Don’t take that risk.

It’s not about trade

Will leaving the EU harm our trade? No. Absolutely not. The EU isn’t going to impose punitive tariffs on us, because that would make no sense. We buy a lot more from them than they do from us, and Brexit would already cost them more money than they can afford to lose. There is no way they would make it worse by harming the economies of the EU’s three remaining big exporters – Germany, France and Italy. Public opinion in those countries is already swinging against Brussels, so why risk angry demonstrations by sacked German car workers? The worst case scenario is a reversion to World Trade Organisation rules. Despite the horror stories spread by Remainers those are actually fine; the WTO’s aim is, after all, to support free trade. Following WTO rules certainly doesn’t seem to harm China, Japan or the USA, who all sell masses of stuff to the EU.

The blunt truth is the EU is rubbish at trade. A condition of membership is that a nation can no longer negotiate its own trade deals with the rest of the world; the EU jealously guards that power. Sadly the EU is very, very bad at negotiating trade deals. That’s inevitable of course, because any EU-level deal has to satisfy too many competing interests. The deal that’s right for a services-based economy like Britain is not right for a high-value goods exporter like Germany. It’s even less right for a relatively poor country like Greece that imports most of its manufactured goods.

Imagine you’re at a party with 28 other people and some of you are feeling hungry. One of the guests, a sullen bore who gets paid lots despite having spectacularly failed in his last real job, announces that the solution to people feeling hungry is a Common Pizza Policy. All the guests are to agree on the ideal pizza and the bore will order 29 of them. Everybody will then eat their pizza whether they like it or not.

Now, how’s that going to go? Not very well, I should imagine. The earnest student Liberal Democrat activist insists the ideal pizza must be vegetarian on ethical grounds, but Hans wants a Salami Special with extra salami. Nathalie wants the main cheese to be Camembert and punches the student for suggesting almond milk cheddar. Luigi says he’s not eating any piece of shit that isn’t made with proper mozzarella. Nicodemos can’t afford a pizza and nobody will lend him money; Stanislaw isn’t hungry, and you want cod and chips. The Common Pizza Policy is, very obviously, a stupid idea.

So why is a common EU trade policy any better? The short answer is that it’s not. It’s because of the EU’s ridiculous one-size-fits-none approach to trade deals that we have so few of them with the rest of the world. And let’s bear in mind that the rest of the world, i.e. those countries that are not in the EU, has 83% of the money. We want to make it easier for them to buy our stuff. Independent countries can do this much more easily:

trade

The EU, with more than 500 million people, has trade deals worth barely a fifth of those negotiated by tiny Switzerland. As an argument for staying in, trade policy is truly pathetic. Collective EU negotiation is a weakness, not a strength. Let’s take Canada as an example. The EU and Canada have written a trade deal. It’s 1,600 pages long. And it cannot be signed. Why not? Because Romania is having a tantrum.

Romania refuses to sign the agreement until Canada gives visa-free access to all Romanian citizens. Canada does not want to do this. So Romania is using an agreement that would benefit over half a billion people as a political weapon. In this situation the sensible thing for David Cameron to do would be to phone Canada and say, “Look, let’s just edit this a bit and sign it as a UK-Canada treaty.” But he can’t do that, because the EU will not let him.

We are a trading nation, and this is a ridiculous situation to be in.

We are in an abusive marriage

Many Remain supporters are bullies. They are openly threatening to hurt the UK if we decide to leave. Much of this has taken the form of overblown, often ludicrous, threats. If we leave the EU the refugee camps in Calais will move to Dover. Except no they won’t, because the Le Touquet Agreement on border control is a bilateral UK-France one and has nothing to do with the EU. The same goes for the border between the UK and Ireland. That’s regulated by the Common Travel Area, which again has nothing to do with the EU – in fact it came into force in 1925. “But after Brexit that will be the EU border!!!” shriek the Remainiacs. Yes. So what? There isn’t a big fence between Sweden and (non-EU) Norway, is there?

Most of the scaremongering has been laughable, but in the past few days it’s taken a darker turn. From silly stories it has drifted into the realm of a protection racketeer saying, “Nice place you have here. It would be a shame if anything was to happen to it.” Here’s an example from yesterday’s Guardian, warning how the Pound could crash after Brexit:

Soros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Soros knows all about money, right? Yes he does. He also knows all about crashing the Pound. In this menacing piece the fanatically pro-EU speculator says Brexit could lead to a “Black Friday”, calling up memories of 1992’s “Black Wednesday” that smashed the Pound out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. And who caused Black Wednesday? That would be George Soros, who deliberately dumped huge quantities of sterling to force interest rates to economy-wrecking levels.

And then there’s this:

PIRA

 

 

 

Nobody wants to risk losing the Good Friday Agreement (which of course had nothing to do with the EU…) because that might reignite the decades-long PIRA terrorist campaign run by… oh yes, Martin McGuinness.

This is despicable. Pro-Remain thugs like Soros and McGuinness are basically implying that, if we don’t vote the way they want, they will hurt us – as they’ve done before. But let’s not forget how that worked out. Soros’s currency machinations in 1992 actually led to a boom for the UK, as we cut loose from the restrictive and idiotic ERM (an EU system, remember) and regained control over the Pound’s value. McGuinness and his fellow killers signed the Good Friday Agreement because PIRA was militarily defeated – starved of funds, riddled with security forces agents, and with its top assassins locked up or dead in SAS ambushes. We have seen off these people before, and we can do it again.

There’s a big world out there

For centuries the UK has been a global player. It’s not all been the sort of thing you wake up feeling proud of, but in general we have been a force for good in the world. We absolutely do not need to be kept in line by a collection of unelected bureaucrats who are mostly notable for having failed in real governments.

Above, I have outlined some arguments for voting Leave. There are many more. Apart from a dislike of Michael Gove and Nigel Farage it’s hard to think of any for voting Remain, and as odious as you may think they are, I don’t believe that annoying them is worth the price we will pay if we stay in the EU.

The referendum tomorrow is a unique, once in a lifetime chance to put the government of the UK back where it belongs – in the hands of the British people. Take it.


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An appeal to ASH: Save e-cigarettes from your stupid colleagues

Clive Bates has just written an excellent post about the stupidity of those in “public health” who stubbornly insist on supporting the EU’s ludicrous restrictions on electronic cigarettes. I won’t go through all his points again, but suffice to say that he’s thoroughly demolished every possible argument in favour of the TPD.

The Article 20 regulations seem calculated to deny the most effective e-cigarettes to those who need them most – smokers and people who’ve recently switched. It’s all very well to say that “only” 9% of British vapers use liquids stronger than 20mg/ml, but who are those 9%? Mostly they’re people who first picked up an electronic cigarette recently, and still need a high nicotine concentration to keep them from relapsing. Or they’re people like me, who aren’t interested in creating massive clouds of vapour and just want something that will deliver ample nicotine in a pleasant-tasting form without having to take a puff every two minutes.

There are various other so-called justifications put forward for the TPD, but all of them are just as daft. If the reason for the tank size limit is to avoid dangerous spills (not that a splash of e-juice will do you any harm anyway) then where’s the sense in making people refill more often? Why are small packs illegal for cigarettes but compulsory for e-liquid? What is the sense in the spiteful and childish six-month notification requirement?

None of the restrictions imposed by the TPD have any scientific justification whatsoever, and to argue that they won’t remove the most effective products from the shelves is nothing short of demented. It’s time for those in public health who support vaping to stand up and condemn this cretinous assault. Those who recognise e-cigarettes as a useful tool for smoking cessation have to explain to their more intellectually challenged colleagues why it’s a bad law written by dishonest and corrupt people.

Frankly, if you’re not willing to condemn Article 20 then you don’t believe in tobacco harm reduction. Anyone who supports these restrictions is either stupid or malevolent; it’s that simple. So come on, ASH; you have the media presence, intellectual clout and financial resources to let the country know, once and for all, that this is a bad – insanely bad – law. Show us that your heart’s in the right place, by breaking your silence and speaking out against this egregious piece of financially-driven desk murder.


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Vendors, explosions and the TPD

In this post I’d like to make two suggestions to all vape vendors. This isn’t something I really want to do, because many of you are doing a great job for the vaping community, but right now I feel I have to raise both these points. What you do with them is up to you, but I hope you’ll at least consider them.

Exploding batteries: It’s not your fault, but it is your problem

The first one is to ask that you please supply all lithium ion batteries in a proper battery box. Most of us know the potential dangers of this sort of technology, if it’s abused or mistreated. Unfortunately some idiots don’t. I know it isn’t your job, as vendors, to educate people about basic safety before selling them things, but images of grilled numpties are not the sort of publicity vaping needs right now. So don’t do what one German vendor did to me recently:

Battery safety

Well okay, if you do this it IS your fault…

When someone orders batteries, send them out in a box. Basic protective cases hold two 18650s or four 18350s, and cost 40p on ebay. You can probably get them wholesale for half that. Anyway, it’s packaging; you can add it to your shipping charge.

Brexit, the TPD, and why it’s time to end ignorance

The EU’s Tobacco Products Directive goes into effect on the 20th of May this year. The British government doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about it, and has watered it down as much as possible, but they have no choice: It’s been voted through by our overlords in Brussels, so it has to become British law. This is awkward for the government because they’ve committed to a referendum on the 23rd of June, and they’d rather like us to vote to stay in the EU. Anyone who’s just been to the local vape shop and found that their favourite liquid has been banned by a Brussels directive is, I’d guess, not too likely to vote that way.

So the government has done something devious, and staged the introduction of the law so its full effects won’t become obvious until May next year. That way they can keep the EU happy by putting it on the statute books, but put off the moment vapers realise what’s been done to them until the referendum is out of the way.

Just in case anyone’s under any illusions about what the TPD does, here’s a quick reminder:

  • Ban on all liquids stronger than 20mg/ml
  • Ban on all liquid bottles larger than 10ml
  • Drip rate regulation for bottles – which effectively bans glass bottles
  • Ban on all atomisers with a tank capacity greater than 2ml
  • Ban on all atomisers that aren’t leak-proof, child-proof and tamper-proof
  • Ban on advertising
  • New products can’t be sold until six months after they’ve been officially registered

There’s also a clause that says if any three EU members ban a type of refillable atomiser the EU Commission can impose a blanket ban in all member states.

There’s even more bad news. Manufacturers and importers will have to register every device they sell, along with every strength and flavour of liquid. The expense of running this system won’t be paid by the EU; it will be paid by vendors. It will cost £220 to submit the paperwork for each product – and the paperwork will just be shoved straight into a cabinet, because it isn’t actually meant to achieve anything. Then there’s a further £60 charge per year (per product, remember) for the dust that collects on it.

Notification fees will grind down your choices

Think about that for a moment. Lots of us enjoy the sheer variety of liquids on the market, but how is that variety going to survive the cost of the TPD notification system? Take my favourite liquid brand, Manabush. Right now Manabush sell sixteen different flavours, and you can get each of them in three nicotine strengths. That’s a total of 48 products, and in May Manabush is going to have to register them all – at a total cost of £10,560. For a small business that is not a trivial expense. Then, every year, there will be another bill for £2,880. Every time they add a new flavour to the range there’s another £220 to pay, and the annual bill goes up by £60.

And remember – Manabush doesn’t get anything for all this money, except the EU’s permission to keep on doing what they were doing perfectly well anyway. It’s just another unnecessary expense imposed by ignorant bureaucrats, who mostly don’t understand business because they’ve never had a real job.

So when the TPD starts to bite, Manabush are going to look at the product range and start checking sales figures. Any liquid that doesn’t make enough profit to cover the TPD fees, plus the time and effort it takes to fill out the paperwork, is going to disappear – and they’ll be more reluctant to introduce any new ones, because who knows if they’ll sell well enough to make the cost and effort worthwhile? This is what’s going to happen at every manufacturer and importer of vape gear from now on.

Choice is going to be even more limited than you expected, because many products not actually banned by the TPD will be killed off by the fees.

Unfortunately there are a handful of vapers, including some of the organisers of UK Vapefest, who have spent the last two years playing down the impact of the TPD for unsavoury reasons of their own. They constantly tell people that it won’t make any difference; that products will get better and safer; that it’s nothing to worry about. And thanks to David Cameron’s frog-boiling strategy of delaying the law’s full impact, some people are going to keep on believing their malicious tripe until the hammer crashes down on 20 May 2017.

Promote the truth

So here’s my second suggestion to vendors. Once you’ve sorted out your battery boxes, knock up a logo for your website and add it to your images of any product that will be banned by the TPD. Every tank that holds over 2ml; every glass bottle; every 30ml bottle; every 24mg liquid. Let your customers know what will be disappearing from the market next May, and make bloody sure they know whose fault it is. If everyone who buys vape gear starts getting that message pounded home from 20 May onwards, hopefully by 23 June they’ll realise exactly how bad it’s going to be. And they’ll also know they can vote to change it.

TPD warning logo

Update: I’ve just been made aware in the comments that there are other significant costs involved – testing and literature searches. I’d assumed that was only for those who braved the road to medical licensing but no, it isn’t – it’s for everyone. How much will this cost? Who knows, but a quick search has turned up estimates from £3,000 to £8,000 per product. For most small companies that’s completely unrealistic. It’s not likely to affect hardware so much, because most of that’s imported and we’ll probably see single large importers emerge for each main brand. For most juice makers, however, it’s the end of the road.