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Friday, 13 October 2017

Shengen isn't working ... broken by smuggled cigarettes?

Friends of mine here in Austria have recently made a couple of trips back to the UK by road, distributing stuff between their two homes. Both times they've been stopped at the border and inspected by the German Finance Police (like the Inland Revenue but in uniform, with pistols). Not looking for Jihadists, Sudanese migrants, Serbian surplus weapons but for cigarettes and tobacco. 

Germany has announced that she will keep her borders closed. So will Denmark, France and Austria, not to mention Hungary and Slovenia. The pretence is terrorism; the reality, I think, almost certainly includes smuggled tobacco products.

Austria is a nation of heavy smokers, and the legal price of ciggies at about €4.50 a pack keeps it that way; bars are mostly smoking-friendly, with only a ban coming next year for food and fags in the same room. It does my heart good to walk into a thick comforting fug of eye-stinging tobacco smoke down the hill at my local gasthaus - keeping alive the memory of pre-2006 Britain. It's not that the Austrian government, under strong pressure from the EU, doesn't want to increase tax on fags; it can't. The proximity of the eastern EU border, with fags coming in from Ukraine at €1.50 a pack, means any tax increase on legal fags will actually lower revenue. Poland's the same, as is Hungary.  Only the UK and Ireland, far from eastern Europe, can increase tobacco duty indefinitely.

So as the Shengen area border posts are reappearing and traffic queues that were recently just a distant memory are now returning on national borders, the nations of Europe are striving to stem the haemorrhage of tax eastwards and halt the tsunami of Chinese and eastern European fags flooding in. 

The prospect makes me chuckle that it's Europe's smokers who may be the final straw that broke Shengen. Now that would be sweet revenge ...  


terence patrick hewett said...

Using the word "fag" in any context on the intertubes will now get you get you cast into the outer levels of Dante's hell.

Poisonedchalice said...

When I was working near Nice (Sofia Antipolis) we would sometimes people watch over lunch on the marina at Antibes. The men were all smoking, they all had little gay-boy handbags and they were incessantly chatting on their mobile phones. We came up with a collective description for them - "fags, fags and phones".

Similarly on trips to Holland, we noticed that there were plenty of women with shaved heads and tattoos, the railway stations were all heavily painted with graffiti and there were bunds and levies everywhere to contain water. So sure enough a new collective description was invented - "dykes, dikes and graffiti" :)

jack ketch said...

"It's not that the Austrian government, under strong pressure from the EU, doesn't want to increase tax on fags; it can't."

Soooo what you're saying is that the Austrian government has somehow retained sovereignty when we in the yUK, according to the Brexϟϟhiteurs, couldn't?

Ask most smokers here and the chances are they think that the current high levels of persecution, the anti-smoker laws, were IMPOSED by Juncker personally.

A sovereign British parliament imposed the Smoking Verbot (2007 btw) not the EU. A sovereign British parliament imposes the obscene rates of duty on tobacco goods and a sovereign British parliament commands it's Border Farce to try and prevent people making full use of their EU right to import their own body weight in tobacco.

The ink will not be dry on Brexshite before Brits are only allowed to bring in the piddling Duty Free amounts and a pack of smokes here will cost what does in NZ/Oz.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

And if, Jack Ketch, you don’t like it, you will be able to vote the bastards out and get the rules changed, won’t you? Unlike the Eurocunts in the commission with their protection racket.

Raedwald said...

Ah jack - but my refusal, when both a smoker and in the UK, to pay UK duty, allowed me to discover some lovely bits of Europe. After France and Belgium raised duty, I started popping over to Barcelona for 3,600 at a time; flight out at a decently late time but just in time to be there for a 3-hour lunch then a 4pm flight back to London, all for £60 return, full of fags and paella. When the Spaniards raised duty, I switched to Porto - delightful little town, vinho verde and fado, overlooking the vinyards.

Then, dependent on Easyjet's schedules, I switched to Budapest in the Summer and Krakow in the Winter, flying every 10 weeks or so, bringing back 3k fags each time. The duty saved on the 1st carton paid for the return flight, on the 2nd carton a hotel for the night and a meal and a few beers, and all the rest was net profit. Well, not actually profit, for I smoked 'em all myself, but you take the point.

Counting the time when Calais offered cheap smokes, I paid *NO* UK duty or VAT on my cigarettes for more than 20 years. Not putting a finger up to the revenue was the biggest regret when I switched from cigarettes to snuff, that and not flying off five or six times a year to interesting places. Now I spend only £50 a year on snuff there's no challenge any more ..sigh.

Yes, I did get a few stops from customs, but as I always had just one brand, the one I smoked, and was always under their 3,600 'guideline' for innocence.

Buying just 200 duty-frees after Brexit will be a heavy blow for many UK smokers, but could well put an extra 4 ferries on the Dover route as smokers switch to a weekly purchase..

DAD said...

Macron threatens to raise the price in France to 10€ for 20 cigarettes. It will be interesting haw many shopping trips to Andorra result.

I was there earlier in the year. Our coach passed the border control on return to France at 08h30, not a Douane (customs officer)in sight.

Budgie said...

Jack Ketch, Declaration 27 of the Lisbon Treaty states that EU law has primacy over that of the member state. Where the EU chooses to legislate, the UK is subject and not sovereign.

anon 2 said...

That filthy fug is deadly. This I know as an ex-phys who treated those with resultant lung diseases; moreover, I watched my own father die of the long-drawn-out emphysema that followed his 60/70 a day habit. Even with his last partial breaths, however, he gasped "And - I - enjoyed - every - cigarette."

However, a lifetime of exposure to the ciggie environment left me allergic to smoke. Hating the smell, I initially tried to take the poison in self-defence. Eventually, though, I couldn't finish any cigarette without wretching. Despite that, the difficulty of kicking the habit made me think I might understand how addiction works.

My final position is that I really don't care if the addicts all want to kill themselves. What I object to is their poisoning air that non-smokers need for breathing. So I'd love it if euros would allow themselves ciggies ... but I don't want them forcing the smoke on people like me. We do need protection from it.

anon 2 said...

Apols. For the above "ex-phys" should be "ex-physio" (Para 1).
"wretching" should read "retching" (Para 2).

DeeDee99 said...


I second that. 13 years ago I joined a small team at work: the boss, a highly intelligent, very experienced civil engineer died this year of lung cancer. He was 59. The other team member now has severe emphysema and relies on oxygen. Both smoked all their adult lives.

I believe a pub should be able to have a smoking room inside, if they have the space and if they want. I hate to see pubs closing and the smoking bad has definitely pushed some to the wall. But I love being able to go to a pub, breathe clean air and not come out stinking of other people's cigarette smoke.

Raedwald said...

Anon / DeeDee don't disagree with you - when I was a smoker I never knowingly inflicted my poison on those who didn't want it. And even then I enjoyed eating my food in a smoke-free room, though with a separate room out of nose-range for a cigar and a coffee after.

Larger pubs here must have a separate smoke-free room, but for smaller pubs with just one bar this just isn't possible. In the UK they should have given small pubs a choice to be smoking or non-smoking; those with a family / food trade would have gone one way, old men's end of terrace boozers the other. Live and let live. However, the process was driven by ideological zealots, control freak authoritarians, with no charity in their cold hearts.

Tobacco was always a good friend to me though years of heavy smoking were having health effects, so I packed up. If I live to 70 I fully intend to start again ...