Brexit and beyond: little change now, future anyone’s guess

White Cliffs of Dover - Tobias von der Haar 900x540Britain’s decision to leave the European Union following yesterday’s knife-edge referendum will have little immediate impact on either vapers or the industry.

With the timing and shape of the UK’s departure from the EU still supremely unclear, and the details of the latter at least unlikely to be known for many months, we believe any firm forecasting of longer-term effects at this stage would be close to meaningless.

The full response of Brussels and Britain’s European neighbours to the Brexit vote is still uncertain, and to further complicate matters the UK will have a new prime minister within about three months, whose approach to the long process of negotiating exit from the EU also remains to be seen.

For the time being, which could mean two years or more, we expect:

  • Within the UK, there will be little practical change for vapers. Britain will not be able to repeal or very substantially alter its legislation based on the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) before formally quitting the EU, even if the new government wants or has time to.
  • However, it is reasonable to expect there will be no important new restrictions introduced either. Not only will government have far more pressing concerns, but if Boris Johnson succeeds David Cameron as prime minister as currently seems a distinct possibility albeit far from a certainty, his government is likely to be a relatively libertarian one. (That philosophy would also disincline it to raise tobacco taxes substantially.)
  • At the enforcement level, of course the machinery of government will continue to grind, but even organisations such as the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are likely to be distracted by Brexit to some extent.
  • In Brussels, Britain’s moderate voice on e-cigs and related policy will – along with its influence generally – rapidly become close to irrelevant, even before the nation actually leaves the EU.
  • For the industry both in the UK and in the rest of Europe, a likely short-term effect is that international companies looking to expand will be less interested in Britain as a base or British firms as acquisition targets, bearing in mind the risk that the EU departure negotiations could end up with British exporters facing European tariffs and other obstacles to trade.


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    In the longer term, although a plausible outcome could be more liberal e-cigarette regulation for British vapers along with a less favourable international business environment for UK e-cig companies, there are so many factors at play – the departure negotiations, British internal politics, and of course larger trends in the e-cigarette market itself – that about the only sure bet is that there will be unanticipated developments.


    What This Means: While there is panic in some quarters and rejoicing in others, the wise if boringly sensible approach is to sit tight, wait, and see what happens.

    – Barnaby Page ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Tobias von der Haar

    Barnaby Page

    Editorial director
    Before joining ECigIntelligence in early 2014 as one of its first employees, Barnaby had a 30-year career as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and online services, working in Canada, the US and the Middle East as well as his current British location. He has edited publications covering fields including technology and the advertising industry, and was launch editor of the first large daily online news service in the British regional media. Barnaby also writes on classical music and film for a number of publications. Barnaby manages the editorial and reporting teams and works closely with the analyst teams, to ensure that all content meets high standards of quality and relevance. He also writes for the site occasionally, mostly on science-related issues, and is a member of the Association of British Science Writers.

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