Roughly twelve weeks have passed since the Brexit vote on June 23rd where the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union. So far very little has changed, the stock markets and currency had a little wobble straight after the vote, but these now seem to have calmed down. The political parties don’t seem entirely sure what to do (like I said little has changed). Labour appears to have opted for a bitter and protracted leadership campaign whereas the Conservatives are simply trotting out ‘Brexit means Brexit’ without actually giving us any details.
Until the now famous Article 50 is triggered by the British Government and the formal process of the UK saying goodbye to the EU begins very little in reality will change. Even at this point, we have two years of preparation for the divorce where the two sides will be negotiating hard on who gets the CD collection and visitation rights on the cat.
What about the Tobacco Products Directive?
One big question that the British vaping community wants answers to is what becomes of the Tobacco Products Directive or TPD. This piece of EU legislation passed into UK law on May 20th, 2016. The vaping world was particularly interested in Article 20 of the directive which was designed to create EU wide rules to fairly govern the e-cigarette and e-liquid industry across all member states. The reality was sadly a little different with a poorly informed, ill thought out, knee-jerk set of laws being rushed through that in many cases go further than the legislation governing traditional cigarettes.
Now that the UK has spoken, and studies show that vapers who were disgruntled with the TPD were a big part of the leave vote, will we persist with this EU created dodgy legislation?
The Short-Term Outlook
As we’ve said above the UK is still an EU member state for at least two more years, and as such we must keep all EU legislation in place.
In 2017 the EU is planning to have completed a draft proposal for taxing e-cigarettes and related products. The idea behind this being that the EU will set a minimum tax that member states must charge with each country having the freedom to raise their taxes above the threshold if they see fit. Many countries are pushing for this tax to be set at the same level as traditional cigarettes. There is an excellent article on the Guardian website that explains this;
It is unlikely that the UK will still be an EU member by the time this proposal is completed, voted on and finally implemented. However, we will be members during the discussions, and it will be interesting to see how our government handles this.
The UK establishment is more open-minded to e-cigarettes than many of our European neighbours so we may decide to opt out of any new tax laws being drawn up. However, with so many smokers moving to vaping the chancellor is losing a significant amount of revenue from cigarette taxes. This means the most likely outcome is the UK adopting a similar tax law to the EU and it is more a question of ‘when we do it’ and not ‘if we do it’.
The Long-Term Outlook
If you’re reading this hoping for good news, then I’d stop now, choose your favourite juice (Red Vape Obviously), sit back and put on some relaxing panpipe music.
For those still reading I’m afraid the outlook isn’t positive. The UK has been an EU member since 1973, and in those 43 years, we have adopted countless EU wide laws and legislation. Many of these laws will be far more significant and far-reaching than the Tobacco Products Directive and as such the TPD will be a long way down the list when it comes to disentangling the UK from EU regulation.
The fact that the UK is no longer part of the EU removes the most prominent positive vaping voice from the union. The UK is also home too much of the best research being done on vaping and e-cigarettes; much of this research was supported by EU grants.
The UK government may still fund this research after Brexit, but this is very much an unknown at this stage. Without the UK’s positive input and research, it’s likely that the TPD, when reviewed by the EU, could become even harsher on the industry.
It’s also highly likely that as part of the deal the UK makes with the EU for continued trade between the two parties we will need to adopt certain common, cross-border policies. Clive Bates, a well-known UK vaping advocate, put’s it well “So we could leave the EU and still have the TPD, with no say on its future. This is not certain but the most likely outcome in my view.”
Brexit and the TPD Summary
No one knows what’s going to happen when the UK leaves the EU, and it’s down to vapers, who heavily backed leaving, to put pressure on the UK government and their local MP’s to ensure that vaping is at the heart of the Brexit discussions. The ideal situation is that the UK controls its own e-cigarette policy. However, with the nature of international politics and trade deal brokering such a situation may sadly not occur.