Ultimately, it seems to me, the fate of the UK smoking ban is entirely dependent on the fate of the EU. So what’s going to happen to the EU?
A week back, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Daily Telegraph wrote this:
I suspect that the realities of the eurozone have reached a point where only two options exist:
1) The folding together of the eurozone states, with a debt pool, shared budgets, joint taxation, and fiscal union.
In other words, the nation states must abolish themselves (leaving only the shell), and Germany must cease to exist in any meaningful form. This was always the inherent logic of EMU. We are coming close to the moment when it must be decided.
2) The system blows apart. From a German point of view, Target2 means if the deed were done “twere better it were done quickly”. Perhaps very quickly.
All else is Quatsch* and wishful thinking. (* nonsense)
This is more or less how I see it. But it usually seems to me that the system will blow apart. AEP, however, seems to think that an EU fiscal union is a perfectly plausible outcome. Or at least he doesn’t think that it’s Quatsch and wishful thinking.
So for the last week or so I’ve been entertaining the nightmarish thought that I’ll wake up any day now to hear the Ode To Joy coming out of loudspeakers everywhere, and find that EU leaders have agreed to a fiscal union, and all the debts of member states have been pooled, and Britain is member of it too, and we’re no longer called Britain, but Transmanche or something. And this will mean that the smoking ban will be extended to absolutely everywhere, including people’s own homes, and smoking refuseniks like myself will be sent to concentration camps. Because that is what the EU future means. And since all the politicians everywhere in Europe are pro-EU (apart from a fringe), it seems entirely likely that they’ve already signed on the dotted line, and just haven’t got round to telling their electorates yet.
But yesterday AEP was writing about the political disintegration of Europe:
Elected governments have already been swept away – or replaced by EU technocrats without a vote, indeed to prevent a vote – in every eurozone state where unemployment has reached double-digits: Spain (23.6pc), Greece (21pc), Portugal (15pc), Ireland (14.7pc) and Slovakia (14pc).
The political carnage has been striking. Ireland’s Fianna Fail, creator of the Irish free state, has lost every seat in Dublin. Greece’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) – torch-bearers of Greek democracy since the Colonels – has fallen to 14pc in the polls and faces ruin next month.
This week the tornado has smashed into the core, bringing down Holland’s govenment and probably the French leader Nicolas Sarkozy as well in a cacophany of anti-EU diatribes…
The results are in: the hard-Left and hard-Right are on the rampage across Euroland.
In such circumstances, it’s rather hard to see the established europhile political class being around for long enough to be able to implement a fiscal union.
But then, these days it seems that the European electorate’s votes don’t count for much anyway, given (as AEP points out) that the governments of Greece and Italy have already been replaced by EU technocrats. So what’s to stop them doing the same in Holland or France? It is as if the EU state already exists, with all the requisite supranational powers in place that are needed to replace problematic member governments.
In addition, since all politicians (apart from a small minority) seem to belong to the europhile establishment, the chances are that any politician – left or right or centre – that anyone votes for will, on election, morph into a europhile clone. After all, that’s the situation in Britain today, where we have in effect a Lib-Lab-Con one-party state, and despite pretending to be Conservative, David Cameron is clearly a socialist of some sort or other. People vote for one thing, and promptly get something else. As is now seeming to be happening with the French presidential candidate, Hollande, who seems to have switched from being anti-European to pro-European since he won the first round of the presidential elections.
The result is a deepening disillusionment (one that I share) among voters, as the Telegraph reported today:
The headlines tomorrow will be full of Hunt and Murdoch and double-dips. But there’s another story that might, in the long term, be even more important.
Today, the Hansard Society published its annual Audit of Political Engagement. It showed that public interest in – and faith in – politics has essentially collapsed.
So it seems to me that a race is on for the EU establishment to try to bind Europe into a fiscal union before the political ground beneath their feet vanishes. Because if Britain (and Germany) haven’t yet experienced the seismic tremors shaking Europe, they soon will.
And if the EU fiscal union fails to emerge, and the EU disintegrates, then the EU-mandated smoking ban will most likely be the first unpopular EU law that will be revoked. And the same will happen everywhere in Europe.
The odd thing about all this for me is that it’s been my gradual (make that ‘painfully slow’) recognition that the UK smoking ban has its roots in the EU that has turned me very strongly against the EU. And I suspect that the same will have been true for a great many other smokers across Europe. After all, what smoker wants to be a member of a state that is dedicated to the eradication of smoking (and therefore of smokers)? And since smokers make up about a third of the population of Europe, it has always seemed to me to be political folly of the first order to alienate so many people from the very outset, and thereby instigate the kind of political divisions which are now sweeping Europe. They may as well have said that they intended to exterminate all Jews as well.
Do they know what they’re doing? And the answer to this question is almost certainly: No. Because it’s now clear that monetary union wasn’t carefully thought through, and is now suffering from a set of problems which were widely forecast, but which the European establishment disregarded. And if they didn’t really know what they were doing in respect of monetary union, then most likely they don’t know what they’re doing in respect of anything else either.
The EU, I’m coming to believe (and was writing about it a few days ago), is a political fantasy. It’s a piece of wishful thinking. And so also is its smoking ban, and much else besides. And it’s a political fantasy that is probably now terminally damaged, although the fantasists driving it will cling onto their fantasy to the very end.
What will emerge after that is anyone’s guess – although quite obviously the European establishment political class will be almost completely swept away, once their raison d’etre has evaporated. And the new breed of politicians that will emerge are likely to be hard-headed realists rather political fantasists of their type.
One last European question, to which I don’t have an answer: Has Greece really been buying large amounts of arms from Germany and France, and in this manner run up most of its debts? I find the story hard to credit.
For light relief, here’s my third prototype cigarette packet. The cigarettes are held in a box which slides out of another box. You can see a cigarette protruding from the protruding inside box. The difficult thing has been to find a way to hold the 20 cigarettes inside the inner box, and the latest design has twin trays to keep them in place and separate. It’s a right bugger to load with cigarettes though.
In light of the foregoing essay, I’m beginning to think that it will never be used by anyone because the smoking ban will be lifted once the EU disintegrates. And it will also never be used by anyone in the event of the emergence of an EU fiscal union, but will instead be used in evidence (along with the rest of my blog) at the half-hour show trial at which I will be condemned to death, and before whose firing squad I will recall, probably inaccurately, Jorge Luis Borges’ ‘Secret Miracle’.
“He accepted the cigarette out of politeness or humility. As he lit it, he saw that his hands shook. “