There’s been a lot of chatter about Brexit. I suppose that it will get worse and worse between now and June. The scare tactics are much on display: the economy will bomb, air fares will escalate, holiday makers might get stranded abroad. Lots about Article 50 (procedures for exit). I see the whole thing as much simpler. As I recall, Brown quietly flew to Portugal just to sign the Lisbon Treaty. It’s that Treaty which bothers me. As I recall, the French people rejected an EU constitution, and so the EU reformulated the constitution into a treaty which became the Lisbon Treaty. That permitted the political elite to sign up to it without the pesky people having anything to do with it.
So I see things in a fairly simple way – abrogate the Lisbon Treaty.
But I have to admit that there is more to it. To be honest, I don’t know enough about it to make a judgement really. All I can say is that I don’t like the political aspect. As we all know, politics is not some sort of exact science. Political decisions affect people in different ways. Some people are disadvantaged and some are advantaged. It is possible for really good ideas not to progress because too many people would be disadvantaged by them. Also, really bad ideas can progress because only a few people are disadvantaged. A perfect example is Article 20 of the TPD, which over-regulates ecigs. As we all know, Article 20 should not even be in the TPD since ecigs are not tobacco products.
Do people know which tobacco plant produces the most nicotine? It is not ‘nicotiana tobaccum’, it is ‘nicotiana rustica’. Also, there is no need to cure the tobacco plant leaves to extract the nicotine. Why bother curing the leaves when the nicotine is just as easy to extract from the green leaves? Green tobacco plant leaves are not tobacco any more than crude oil pumped out of the ground is petrol. As we know, it is possible to create the equivalent of petrol from biomass. We would not call the biomass crude oil. And yet, in effect, that is what Article 20 does.
It is clear that Article 20 is a political construct.
More and more EU decisions are political in nature. We can point to stuff about powerful electric kettles, which are likely to be potentially banned for environmental reasons. The whole thing is crazy. The UK is bound to enact laws agreed within the EU but is not limited by them, provided that more stringent regulations do not conflict with some other EU law. The UK cannot pass less stringent laws. Crazy.
But what annoys me more than anything is that the EU directives receive only the most superficial of examinations, if any at all (see the failure of Soubry to consult the Parliamentary Committee which examines EU TPD proposals).
And there is the rub – superficiality.
I came across a comment somewhere today which I have seen before, but I can’t remember where I saw it. It went something like:
Ten commandments – 150 (?) words.
US constitution – 2500 (?) words.
EU directive on straight bananas (?) – 29,000 (?) words.
Do you see where I am going? It is the massive wordiness, complexity, detail, jargon, legalese in the directives which renders any commentary, discussion, thinking about those words superficial. No MP has the time or inclination to read and understand all those words. And so he must rely upon someone telling him, in much simpler, and therefore superficial, terms what the document is about and what it says. And who is paid to explain all that stuff to him? Why, it is another politician who has been briefed by a person who was involved in the creation of the document and who is biased in its favour.
I sometimes think about what is missing in our political system. I have had a thought that may be worthy of consideration.
In recent times, ‘evidence based policy’ has been all the rage. So a Government department dreams up a policy and pays vast amounts of money to an intermediary to find evidence to support the policy. That evidence is then presented as a ‘fait accompli’ to politicians. The political system then seeks ‘a consultation’, but it is the biased department which originated the policy which receives responses to the consultation. Negative responses are played down while positive responses are played up. We saw that with plain packaging. 600,000 signatories were ignored whilst the opinion of a dozen academics was accepted.
What is missing?
I think that it is INDEPENDENT review.
If there is one body which has not been politicised (as yet), it is the Office of National Statistics. I think that there was an attempt by the last Labour government to politicise the ONS. What I read was all very vague. It had to do with a question on a ONS survey. I think it was to do with the smoking ban. Something like: “Since the smoking ban, do you go to pubs, a), less often, b) more often, or, c) the same”. Can you see the problem? It is that a person who never goes to pubs would have to answer, “the same”. But that can be interpreted to mean that he/she still goes to the pub, regardless of the smoking ban! As I recall, that error was corrected some months later by a new question which excluded non pub goers. But I am not at all sure if that was correct. It was something like that.
I think that the attempt to politicise the ONS was seen off, but not on the grounds of principle. Politicians do not have public principles. It was seen off on the grounds of expediency. That is, if politicians, or political entities, became involved in the ONS, then nothing produced by the ONS could be trusted.Trust in the ONS is absolutely paramount.
The ONS is packed full of brilliant mathematicians and statisticians. What better organisation could there be to independently comment on epidemiological research findings? The researchers would have to produce their original sources and their methodology. The ONS would check that stuff and report on the power of the study. No trickery, no biases, no propaganda – simple statements of fact to inform Ministers.
Do we not see how the EU is designed to avoid such independent scrutiny? It goes through the motions, but the motions are politicised. What could be more prone to corruption?
Was it possible to reform the EU? Absolutely not, in the sense that Cameron wanted a quick fix to assuage referendum voters’ fears about immigration. That is not reform, even if he had been totally successful. Reform means getting rid of the involvement in and costs of UN institutions, like the WHO, IPCC, World Bank, etc. Either the EU speaks for all EU States without the involvement of the individual States, such as the UK, France, etc, or it should not be involved at all. Either it is like the USA or it is not involved. It is reasonable to ask why each of the USA’s individual States is not a member of the UN in its own right. Why is not the Republic of Massachusetts an independent member of the UN?
Reform requires radical reduction of the creeping barrage of rules and regulations which are totalitarian in their nature – one size fits all – and which are taking away the hard won freedoms which we have enjoyed. If you read the FCTC carefully, you can see that it is a document which has, in effect, declared war on tobacco companies. That is all. We smokers are unwilling conscripts in that war. It is a sort of negative war, where we smokers are soldiers for the FCTC. We have been forced into the trenches, and forced to go ‘over the top’ against the massed battalions of Big Tobacco. We are the bloody infantry in this negative war. We have been bombarded by high taxes, blasted by bans, vilified by propaganda, and the objective of our Commanding Officers in the High Command (organisations such as the College of Physicians) is to kill us all off. What quality control now exists for tobacco products? There is none. Big Tobacco can shovel any sort of shit into cigs, cigars and pipe tobacco. I’m not saying that they do. I am saying that they could do if they wished to. Plain packaging is another nail in our coffins.
So what do we do?
We desert. We refuse to ‘go over the top’. If a smoker cannot afford a trip to foreign parts from his own savings, it is worth getting a loan to do so. Cigs in Prague cost only £2.50 for 20. I did not like Prague. Although it is one of the oldest cities in Europe, it bears the scars of communism. I cycled across Northern France in 1957, 12 years after WW2, and there were still huge mounds of rubble in the city of Lile, which were the result of the war. Cycling up the coast road from Calais, rusty German artillery guns were still in place on the coast.
But I found a nice bar in Prague just across the street from my hotel. I met some really nice people there. One was a lovely Polish girl who resided in Australia and who had been home to Poland to visit her parents. I…. erm….. well, nearly. There was a Swedish couple who gave me a sample of snus. I did not like it. But the weather was cold and wet, which did not help. I brought back 30 x 200 cigs at a cost of about £750. Those cigs would have cost me around £2000 at home. But it isn’t only about costs. It is about not complying – not allowing yourself to be forced to ‘go over the top’ and become a casualty on behalf of The Tobacco Control Industry in is war with Big Tobacco.
If you want a beer at the pub, go there and enjoy. Go out for a cig if you feel like it. Such actions in no way assist the anti-tobacco Commanders. In fact, they defy the commanders because you do as you wish.
Desert. Walk away. You must remove yourself from the war. It has nothing to do with you personally. Walk away. Desert. Do not ‘go over the top’ in this negative war. This war is not being conducted by honourable men; it is being conducted by charlatans and profiteers.
Health disappeared from the equation years and years ago.
Brexit is the only way out of the morass, out of the swamp. I do not understand how Cameron et al can wish to remain trapped in the quagmire. Drag yourself out, wash yourself off and venture forth.
Further, from outside, you can reverse the negative wars.
Interesting. One must to bed.