I had to search online to find “the date when Britain leaves the EU”:
the UK is scheduled to leave at 11pm UK time on Friday, 29 March 2019.
I wonder if pubs will stay open for the event?
Perhaps they will. But I won’t be there. For now I only ever go to pubs in summer, to sit outside them on sunny afternoons.
29 March 2019 looks set to be a red-letter day in British history. But I found myself wondering this morning whether it would be as significant a day as 1 July 2007.
I concluded that it would not be. Because on 29 March 2019, nothing is going to happen, except perhaps the Union Jack will cease to fly outside the European parliament in Brussels. The consequences, which will be numerous, will follow in the days and months and years thereafter.
But 1 July 2007, the day the UK smoking ban came into force, was an earthquake that was felt everywhere in Britain. It was an earthquake that was felt in every village and town and city. It was a day on which a lot of things fell down. It was the day on which I became homeless, and have remained homeless ever since. For on that day I was exiled to the outdoors, and that’s where I have remained ever since.
George Godber said that smokers would be “petulant for a while” after smoking was banned. But it’s not like that. Smokers never get over smoking bans in the way they might get over lost loves or lost friendships or lost homes. The sense of exclusion is permanent. And that sense of exclusion is something I still endure today just like I first did on 1 July 2007.
Brexit is not going to be a shocking experience for the British people like the smoking ban of 1 July 2007 was. It’s instead going to be a shocking experience for the British political class. It’s going to be a shock in Westminster and in Whitehall, and on Fleet Street and in the studios of the BBC and ITV and Channel 4.
There was weeping and gnashing of teeth all over Britain on 1 July 2007, but next to none of it was reported. I watched it not being reported on TV that day. But the weeping and gnashing of teeth in Westminster and Whitehall on 29 March 2019 will get a storm of publicity because it’s something that will be happening to a political class which has become so completely wedded to the EU over the past 50 years that it will seem as inconceivable to them to leave it as it once seemed inconceivable to me that smoking would be banned in pubs.
The British people could do nothing about the smoking ban that was imposed upon them by the political class on 1 July 2007. But the political class is quite capable of doing something about Brexit, and we are now seeing every effort being made to prevent it from happening. So I won’t be at all surprised to find that it has been cancelled, or that there will be a second referendum, or something along those lines.
But I think that regardless of what happens in Britain, the EU has begun to disintegrate. It’s another failing European empire, just like all those that preceded it. For I think that the EU elections of 23 May 2019 will see a tide of populists come sweeping into the EU parliament, changing the character of that place, and of European politics. And I think that the end result will see either the complete disintegration of the EU, or its reformation into something like the earlier EEC, as all the nation states of Europe recover their autonomy one by one.
And, although it’s not being reported as such (and will never be reported as such), I’m sure that the populist revolt throughout Europe is in large measure the revolt of Europe’s smokers against the antismoking European political class. After all, Europe’s smokers comprise 25% or even 30% of Europe’s population, and none of them will have liked the smoking bans that have been imposed on them at the request of the EU. Their experience of exile and alienation will in many cases mirror my own experience. For, wherever we are in the world, we smokers are experiencing pretty much the exact same thing everywhere. They have a lot in common with each other, whether they’re Christian or Muslim, or black or white, or male or female. They’re all in the same boat. They’ve all been abandoned and betrayed by their political classes, everywhere in the world. And in this they are united, even if they have yet to experience that unity.