UK to Go Further than EU Demands on Plain Cigarette Packs, 'Final Nail in Coffin' for Newsagents

UK to Go Further than EU Demands on Plain Cigarette Packs, 'Final Nail in Coffin' for Newsagents

In a reversal of stated policy, the Conservative-led government is moving ahead with a key “gold-plating” initiative that could rile backbench Tory MPs as well as rank-and-file Conservative Party members, Breitbart London has learned.

Last week, the government notified the European Commission of its intent to proceed with a controversial tobacco plain packaging law whose provisions actually exceed what is set out in the much-criticised EU Tobacco Products Directive.

But the government had previously announced an end to gold-plating, stating in December 2010 that it would no longer engage in the practice by which EU member states go above and beyond the provisions of EU directives when incorporating the directives into their own bodies of law. 

Business Secretary Vince Cable said that ending gold-plating was necessary because the process had “hinder[ed] UK growth,” “[harm[ed] the UK economy” and put “British business… at a disadvantage compared to their European competitors.”

According to an opinion released by the Regulatory Policy Committee at the end of May, the proposed plain packaging law would “go beyond the European Tobacco Products Directive and require standardised tobacco packaging of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco.” “By going beyond minimum EU requirements,” the opinion notes, “the Department is gold-plating the measure.”

Mandating standardised cigarette packs was debated, but ultimately not pursued, when the EU recently revisited the content of its Tobacco Products Directive. The government had previously resisted calls for plain packaging, just as the prior Labour Government had, but now looks set to flip-flop on both its prior commitments regarding standardised packs and gold-plating.

Backbench Tory MPs have been vocal in opposing standardised packs, arguing that if they are mandated, the Conservative Party could suffer losses to UKIP, which has been vocal in opposing the policy. 

As the Sun reported in May, Tory backbencher Nick de Bois wrote a letter to fellow MPs in which he stated, “I am extremely concerned that this is becoming yet another issue of concern to traditional Conservative voters and one which inevitably Ukip will exploit to their advantage.” 

Priti Patel, another vocal opponent of the policy, has said that it would be the “final nail in the coffin” for newsagents nationwide. The Sun has also noted Westminster buzz that the vast majority of 1922 Committee members oppose plain packaging.

Observers believe backbench MPs could still derail the move, especially if further concerns are raised in view of perceived interest in UKIP on the part of traditional Conservative voters, such as those in recently-defected MP Douglas Carswell’s constituency. However, the government has shown no signs of publicly walking away from plain packaging to date.


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