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Over the past two weeks, retail shops were allowed to open in England and in Wales.

Shops in Wales opened a week later than in England’s because of the devolved government. Scotland and Northern Ireland are also operating their own reopening timetables for the same reason.

England

The government encouraged shops to remove as much risk from COVID-19 as possible. Certificates are available for shops that do so.

On Monday, June 15, a number of retail shops reopened.

Primark was the biggest draw.

These were the scenes in Birmingham:

It was the same in Liverpool …

… and Bristol …

… and Hull:

These are Primark’s in-store guidelines:

If you need a laugh, this is a great video about Primark’s guidelines:

Oxford Street in London was the same. There is obviously something about Primark, as can be seen from this photo of Berlin:

Here’s a shop in Oxford Circus. Also note that some secondary schools reopened and that face masks became compulsory on public transport in England:

Oxford Street was busy in places:

These were Selfridge’s first shoppers on that beautiful Monday morning:

More waited in the queue outside:

For some, social distancing was so last month:

Grandparents still cannot hug their grandchildren, but there was a workaround for that. I believe this was outside the Nike Store:

Apparently, not everyone was happy with non-essential retail shops opening for the first time since March:

How true:

Mandatory face masks on public transport have been causing concern for some:

Transport for London trusts passengers who say they cannot wear face coverings:

Public transport was a mixed bag with regard to masks:

Things were more relaxed in Bristol:

I had to wear a mask indoors today for a while. I walked home in it just to see what would happen. While the mask was comfortable, I was getting short of breath after my five-minute walk home. Was it hypoxia? I would not recommend walking the streets with a mask for that reason:

We have more reopenings to look forward to on Saturday, July 4, which will be an Independence Day of sorts for us, too.

Wales

Shops in Wales reopened on Monday, June 22.

Everything was much quieter there.

Wales Online reported that shops had made a lot of adjustments.

Cardiff has redesignated thoroughfares in the main shopping area:

Some shops did not reopen until Friday, June 26. Here’s Primark in Cardiff:

Schools in Wales can reopen next week, with social distancing measures in place:

We had a splendid week of warm and sunny weather. Unfortunately, it brought out the worst in some people:

Even the First Minister Mark Drakeford remarked on unauthorised mass gatherings and the lack of social distancing:

In brighter news, an online #IAmOpen campaign kicked off today:

Just another step forward to normality:

More reopening updates will follow in the weeks ahead.

Despite coronavirus, videoconferences have been ongoing with the EU with regard to a new trade agreement.

We are at an impasse at the moment, although talks will resume during the first week in June.

Meanwhile, the UK is preparing to negotiate a trade deal with Japan:

On May 19, the Department for International Trade announced a new UK Global Tariff:

The pound rose on the announcement. Trade Secretary Liz Truss, negotiating our post-Brexit trade deals, is pictured:

On May 20, the House of Commons debated the Trade Bill:

She also discussed support for small businesses in this context:

Speaking of small businesses, this man is grateful for emergency government help during the coronavirus crisis from Chancellor for the Exchequer Rishi Sunak:

Other small business owners have reported similar success:

Returning to Brexit, on Monday, May 18, MPs passed the new Immigration Bill.

This short video provides information on the bill, which means that the UK will have the ability to accept immigrants from all over the world:

While the Immigration Bill is good news, the illegal migration across the Channel from France is something that the Home Office must tackle now:

I am not sure why such migrants are not returned to France straightaway. They are entering illegally:

It looks as if the French are aiding and abetting this migration, now done in full daylight. It used to be a night-time operation:

Nigel Farage went out on a fishing boat to film it. He says that the UK coast guard warned everyone on the fishing boat that their vessel would be impounded if they filmed the UK rescuing the dinghy, full of illegals:

You couldn’t make it up.

How can this be happening? Why?

One of the migrants even flips off Farage and the fishermen.

More below. Pett Level is in East Sussex. Dover is in Kent:

Of the YouTube video, Guido Fawkes says (highlights in the original):

This shocking video reveals that the illegal migration trade, which is a multi-million €uro criminal enterprise, is being facilitated by the French Navy. Nigel Farage yesterday videoed evidence of a dangerously over-burdened dinghy being escorted by a French Naval vessel across the English channel until it was out of French waters, where in British waters it was met by what he reports to be a UK border force vessel. This is not a “search and rescue mission”, this is a handover aiding an abetting criminal in the commission of a crime.

What is going on? …

Nigel Farage tells Guido there will be more dynamite footage. The good weather means this is peak time for illegal cross channel migration. Surely an MP should be granted an urgent question to the Home Secretary today?

Except, Parliament was already in Whitsun recess.

Nevertheless, the Home Secretary has urgent questions to answer:

Farage is not the only one to track this migration.

The BBC have done so:

So has investigative reporter Michael Crick, who has shocking figures about the numbers of illegals reaching the Kent coastline. Watch (subtitled):

On Thursday, May 21, Guido Fawkes reported that Home Secretary Priti Patel was talking with 30 Conservative MPs about it:

Guido says that the video conference was polite. Matt Vickers MP (Conservative, Stockton South) can concur. Priti Patel says that she is working with the French, 1,100 illegals have been turned back and that she will legislate against such crossings (third video below):

Guido also contacted the Home Office independently and received the following replies. It appears that this pertains, in some extent, to Brexit. Even so, under the Dublin Regulation, refugees must apply for asylum in the first safe country of arrival (emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Is the Home Secretary Priti Patel aware of what the border force is doing?

    • The French boat was not escorting the migrant boat. International maritime law prevents border force intervening with boats unless they are expressly invited to. The boats were shadowing the migrant vessel in case it sank and the people needed rescuing. The first duty French and British vessels is to save life at sea. Upon arrival those aboard the boats have to be processed through the asylum system before the Government is legally able to return them.

Has this collaboration been given Ministerial approval?

    • Collaboration is wide of the mark. Priti raises the issue of channel crossings with the French interior minister every time she sees him. Both are committed to stopping it, but have to work within the framework of international law, meaning the work to stop crossings can largely only be done on land not at sea. More will be able to done to deal with boats once they have landed on British shores when the Brexit transition period ends. The Government is keen to reassess the EU’s Dublin convention on asylum application.

Is the French Navy not in breach of EU directives and/or law?

    • The French Navy is following international law. It would be illegal to intervene with the boat. Instead, the navy is committed by law to save lives at sea, and consequently shadows boats that are at risk.

Is this the official or unofficial policy of the French government?

    • The French Government has been working well with the British to stop illegal channel crossings. They do not want to allow crossings as this creates a strong pull factor for more migrants to come across continental Europe to northern France in the hope of crossing too. It is a big domestic political problem for them, and they have been largely successful in clearing migrant camps and patrolling beaches. 100 people were stopped over the weekend. Boats do however slip through the net.

Guido asked why it was the case that the Australians were able to turn back boats uninvited. They do it by breaking international law. It upsets the UN and embroils the Australian Government in a lot of legal trouble with powerful interest groups; it works though…

Also on May 21, Breitbart reported that the Fourmentin, named after a notorious 18th century French pirate who terrorised the English (!), has form in illegal migration: ‘Transponder Data Proves Farage Right on French Handover of Illegals’, having made similar trips of this nature. The Aramis, a former French naval vessel which is now a police vessel, has, too. Good grief.

There must be shady money in these operations. You or I could not take a dinghy out to sea, but these people get a military escort. One law for us and another law for people who aren’t even citizens of France or the UK. We know nothing about them (e.g. criminal records in their home countries) other than that they are male and able bodied. The mind boggles.

Several days ago, a Conservative MP said that over 600,000 immigrants arrived in the UK in 2019. I wonder if the likes of these were included in the count.

Conservative Woman posted an article by John Smith, ‘Farage migrant video shames so-called journalists’. It says, in part (emphases mine):

This is a scandal of epic proportions. More than 1,000 immigrants are known to have arrived in Britain since lockdown began on March 23. Others will have slipped through the net. This is despite Migration Watch’s constant alerts. 

Farage has been chipping away at this issue for weeks. The video is the culmination of a long investigation by him. He has undertaken this work because he believes it badly needs to be exposed for a host of reasons. Not only are these men (he says they are mainly men) probably not refugees (they are economic migrants fleeing the safety of France), but they are breaking the law. We know nothing about them, meaning there is a security risk to our citizens. There is also a public health risk because they may have Covid-19 … 

Farage has done a public service in reporting on this scandal. It’s only May. Think how many more illegal immigrants will try to cross between now and October. Once, newspapers such as the Sunday Times or Daily Mail grasped that their readers cared about this kind of story. Now, they mock those like Farage who do their reporters’ work for them.

This is Farage’s full video, posted on May 21. It includes an interview that LBC (radio) did with Priti Patel:

Just as bad is the £2.9 billion deal the UK government struck with two companies, Serco and Mears, in January 2019 (when Theresa May was PM) to provide housing and support for asylum seekers. Good grief. Why does that cost so much?

Ending on coronavirus, it is a relief that the government now has sufficient testing capacity to extend it to the general population. This is particularly important with the proposed return to school in June for certain pupils:

Looking ahead, once things stabilise after the coronavirus outbreak, hard decisions will need to be taken about aspects of national health care. We are still waiting — ten years on — for the Conservatives’ promised ‘bonfire of the quangos’:

When the military have to sort out logistics for the health system, we have a problem:

Harvesting crops is also an issue. I hope that British farms will recruit British workers wherever possible:

However, this could well be dead in the water:

The article, from May 20, is behind a paywall, but the comments are accessible. They corroborate the article’s author saying that young Britons have applied for these jobs and have been turned down — or not replied to at all. Some farms have turned down those who can work locally and live at home, rather in a six-person mobile home accommodation on the premises.

Excerpts from the article follow:

The narrative goes something like this –

Farmers: “We need workers or the crops will rot”

Her Majesty’s Government: “Then employ British workers”

Farmers: “We tried, you tried, but they just aren’t up to it, the food is going to rot”

HMG: “Oh no, we cannot allow that to happen, open the doors and ship them in” …

The author, Gawain Towler, is suspicious of DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

Some questions recently asked of Defra push towards the idea that the ministry has now decided to side with the farmers and against the views of the majority of the population. They were asked whether the Government had put any system to evaluate the success of the campaign to employ UK workers on the farms, after all there has been a great propaganda push, so surely this will have had an evaluation attached to it.

The answer was that they couldn’t say, because it was commercially sensitive. Nobody had asked about individual farms, but the broad picture – simply how many have been employed. No answer, no system in place to check.

The ministry was also asked about the series of what looks on the surface to be discriminatory measures to discourage British workers. The refusal to allow people to have transport. The demands that they live on site, rather than travel into work, in dormitories for which the workers’ pay. The demand in some cases for an up to three-week training period, to pick fruit

Why does it take three weeks to learn how to pick fruit?

The author concludes:

If the Government is refusing to address these very real concerns, and they are, if they refuse to even have any system in place to discover the efficacy of their schemes, then what are we supposed to think? I, who am still looking for work in the sector, and many thousands like me who have also failed to find work through the system must surely be justified in thinking that they are not serious. Worse still, it looks like the system is deliberately designed to fail.

Yes, it certainly does, even though it would be nice to be proven wrong.

As one can see, there is still much work to be done in Parliament this year, dominated by Brexit and coronavirus.

On September 12, Business Insider recapped Bernie Marcus’s views on the upcoming presidential election.

Marcus founded Home Depot in 1978, served as its first CEO for many years then as chairman until he retired in 2002.

He gives an entrepreneur’s perspective, of which we could use more.

This is what Marcus told Neil Cavuto on FOX Business (emphases mine):

Every indication is that America will go down the drain if in fact she is elected.

“When I listen to Hillary Clinton and I listen to the [economists] who never in their life ever hired a human being or trained a human being, I say, I don’t know the world that they belong in. I know that when you have high taxes that you kill off jobs. Killing off jobs means hurting America. It means hurting the economic wealth of America — and that’s not good for anybody.

All of the Republicans out there, I say the same thing … [If you’re] going to stay neutral, you might as well vote for [Hillary Clinton] because your lack of vote for Donald means she’s going to get elected anyway,” he said. “You may not like him, but you [have to] vote for him because he’s going to save this country.”

Marcus is correct.

In a similar vein — for conscience voters or third-party adherents — this is what a Bernie supporter wrote recently, using Jill Stein (Green) as an example:

By voting for Trump, you add 1 vote to him, and 0 vote to Hillary, and so that’s a real action in the real world of electoral politics: it puts Trump up 1. By voting for Hillary, you add 1 vote to her, and 0 vote to Trump, and so that too is a real action in the real world of electoral politics: it puts Hillary up 1. Either vote is a real vote.

The real world of electoral politics is the foundation of democracy, without which it can’t function at all. Fantasy votes are not votes that can even possibly participate in democracy. For example: by voting instead for Jill Stein, you add 0 vote to each of the two real-world contestants, just the same as you would be doing by staying home on Election Day.

This is not the time to be holier-than-thou about voting. This year, Americans are voting to save or destroy what remains of the Great Republic.

Last Thursday, I saw shocking scenes of East Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, in a documentary on ITV1 called Trump’s America – Will It Happen?

East Cleveland is becoming the next Detroit. The mayor told the interviewer that he desperately wants to get the community incorporated into Cleveland so its residents have a chance of survival.

Currently, so many homes in East Cleveland have been razed that the land is becoming wild again, as it is in much of Detroit. The film crew were even able to get footage of a deer ambling down a street.

The programme opened with a profile of Youngstown. When I saw it, I nearly wept. What was filmed looked like a judgement.

When I was growing up, Youngstown was a model American city with hard working people. Of course, they had the steel industry then — long gone — and to hear former steel workers say that no one in Washington DC cares was heartbreaking, even though it is very true.

Generally speaking, this is the fault of the Democrats. Generations of voters have elected them to power time and time again. Each generation has lived in a more precarious environment socially and economically than the one before. Nowadays, even an eye-wateringly expensive college degree can’t guarantee economic security.

Donald Trump — with no establishment ties — is America’s last chance.

As the aforementioned Bernie supporter, a historian, wrote, not voting for Trump means:

throwing away the only such opportunity that the U.S. oligarchy (slipped-up and) allowed us to have.

Much like Brexit.

There is one chance, however accidental it might be, and one only.

Some churchgoers find other Christians blogging on politics distasteful.

I can assure everyone that if Hillary Clinton wins, I will do my best to refrain from writing posts on American politics in future.

Because — at that point — America will soon be finished.

Money seekingalpha-Living4DividendsThe newspapers from April 23 and 24 presented the worst case scenarios for British business in case of Brexit.

One of the reasons the government is delaying triggering Article 50, which formally begins Leave proceedings with Brussels, is to give businesses time to plan for the future. There are, of course, other reasons for the delay, mainly David Cameron’s resignation. He clearly said that his successor, to be decided by October, will be the one to invoke the article.

The business section of Le Monde on June 23 had two good articles about Brexit. One of their correspondents, Eric Albert, interviewed a few British business experts (‘Le casse-tête des accords commerciaux post-Brexit’, Économie et Entreprise, p. 4). Highlights follow, translation and emphases mine.

How much of British trade is with the EU?

Currently, the European Union (EU) represents 45% of British exports and clarifying the commercial trading framework will be a matter of urgency.

Article 50 provides for a two-year period of exit negotiation. After two years, it can be renewed and extended.

‘The most rapid EU free trade agreement to date, with South Korea, took four years to be negotiated,’ recalls Jessica Gladstone from the legal firm Clifford Chance. ‘Negotiations between the EU and the United Kingdom could be accelerated, but both parties would have to agree to that.’

At the moment, there are no trade frameworks that would ideally suit the UK’s position.

Norway is not part of the EU, but it is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and benefits from full access to the single market. But, in return, it is obliged to follow the rules and regulations from Brussels; it contributes annually to the EU budget and it abides by free movement of persons. For the United Kingdom, this would change nothing.

Relations between Switzerland and the EU are founded on nearly 120 bilateral agreements. But these do not include financial services, extremely important to the United Kingdom.

Turkey currently has access to the single market without accepting free movement. But that agreement pertains only to goods, not services. Yet, 80% of the British economy relies on services, particularly financial services. Furthermore, Turkey is obliged to adopt European rules and regulations.

Other countries — Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Ukraine — have distinctive agreements which include various aspects of political collaboration. However, those agreements are designed to help those countries become members of the EU. Britain would not benefit from that type of framework.

Another possibility is for Britain to return as a member of the World Trade Organisation. However, that would mean that customs and tariffs applied between the UK and EU. In short, the UK would be no different to India or China in that respect.

So, this leaves the UK in a position of having to renegotiate all 53 free trade agreements which exist between the EU and the rest of the world in order to maintain the commercial status quo in a Brexit Britain. Brussels would have to make significant concessions to Britain, which seems unlikely, but who knows? We would need to have a trading framework specifically tailored to our needs.

Another article on the same page in Le Monde was a Q&A with Andrew Balls, fund manager at Pimco (‘”La faiblesse des salaires nourrit le rejet d’Europe“‘). Balls explained — as the title says — that the British rejected Europe because of increasingly weak salaries.

Reporter Marie Charrel asked Balls whether Brexit would have as ‘violent’ an effect on the UK as the economic crash of 2008. Balls said that, outside of initial market and currency dips in the immediate aftermath, he did not foresee chronic problems in the long term. This is because everyone was aware we were undertaking an EU referendum, whereas no one foresaw Lehman Brothers failing in 2008.

Charrel then asked him what the overall financial impact of Brexit would be. Balls replied:

The heaviest consequences would be concentrated on the British economy. The doubts about an exit process, which could last for months, would penalise investment. A recession is not out of the question, but, overall, [making] any estimates would be tricky.

For the European Union, economic consequences would be more limited. We are much more worried about political risks that a Brexit would only amplify: the rise of Eurosceptic populists, Spanish legislative elections on June 26, the Italian referendum on constitutional reform this autumn … The list is a long one.

She then asked Balls the reasons for these political risks. He said:

Populist movements in Italy or in France, just as the rejection of the EU in the United Kingdom and even the popularity of the Republican Donald Trump in the United States have one thing in common: they are fed by weak growth and salaries which have been going on for years. Moreover, a number of citizens feel that aid given to the banking sector has not actually benefited the economy, and that income inequality has been further reinforced during this crisis [of 2008].

One wonders if our Treasury started developing Brexit plans during the campaign, despite our Chancellor George Osborne’s Project Fear. It could be he was so confident of Remain winning that no one thought of developing — or was allowed to formulate — a Plan B(rexit).

In reading the latest news and opinions on Brexit at PoliticalBetting.com — a fine resource for my fellow Britons, particularly the readers’ comments* — I ran across an interesting comment from a man who works for his family’s firm.

Recently, he was going through some old paperwork and discovered a note one of his cousins had penned in the 1930s:

God has been very good to our family. We have been asked to play a role in which we can serve the public, in a manner that is pleasant, and is not unrewarded in worldly terms.

Interestingly, the cousin started with a statement of thanksgiving, perhaps as a reminder to other family members. Then, he went on to describe their company as playing a pre-ordained role, as if God put them in that business for a particular reason. Judging by the last clause, they were very successful and, no doubt, continue to be so today.

It is a thoughtful, considered way to think of one’s family business.

* Read comments bottom to top.

In March 2015, the French newsweekly Marianne* featured an excerpt from a new book, L’alimentation prise en otage (‘food taken hostage’) by farmer-MEP-activist José Bové and co-author Gilles Luneau.

No escaping multinationals

The excerpt begins with an explanation of the control a few multinationals have over the world’s food. Even when we think we are buying a specialised brand name, more often than not it is owned by one of these giants (p. 56). Although many of the brands named below are European, others are not:

– In the realm of hot drinks, Kraft owns Jacques Vabre, Carte Noire, Maxwell and Lipton.

Kraft also own biscuit brands Belin, LU and Tuc — as well as sweets brands Toblerone, Côte d’Or, Suchard, Cadbury, Carambar, Lajaunie and Vichy pastilles.

– Among many other food and water brands, Nestlé own Perrier, Buitoni, Bolino, Herta, Flanby and Mövenpick.

Nestlé also own pet food brands, among them Gourmet and Friskies.

We discover that Nestlé, founded in 1866 in Switzerland is comprised of more than 2,000 brands and 10,000 products requiring 333,000 employees and 447 factories in 86 countries.

I won’t go into the Kraft-Mondelez set-up, because it is equally as huge and more complex.

Of course, there are other big players in the world marketplace. Unilever own food as well as household product brands. Among them are Cif, Dove, Sun, Skip, Alsa, Amora, Maille, Knorr, Ben & Jerry’s, Carte d’Or, Miko and Cornetto.

Even when we think we are buying small or traditional niche brands, we’re actually buying from multinationals.

International lobbying

Not surprisingly, several of the world’s largest corporations banded together years ago to form an influential lobbying group, ILSI — International Life Sciences Institute.

ILSI was founded in 1978. Billed as a non-profit, its objective is

to provide science that improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment by creating a platform for coordination, cooperation, and collaboration among experts from industry, government, and academia and other civil society organizations. We actively design our programs to foster multi-sector collaboration conducting, gathering, summarizing, and disseminating science related to the world’s most pressing health issues.

Better decisions affecting public and environmental health and safety are made when they are based on good science. ILSI believes its science – as part of the larger body of scientific information – helps industries make safer, healthier products and helps governments, civil society organizations, and individual health professionals provide effective and practical guidance to promote safety, health, and well-being.

It has representatives from multinationals as well as universities.

Bové and Luneau posit that, whilst all this sounds highly worthy (p. 59):

Behind it, there is the interest to create, capture or protect a market.

So, we have lobbying for and research into GMO, processed foods and fast foods. One example involves eggs, which are now ‘ovoproducts’ (p. 59). Currently, 42% of eggs in the United States and 30% of those in France are broken and separated for processes needed to make fast and mass-produced food. Whites and yolks are separated, liquidised, solidified in bars or powdered to make industrial cakes, pastries, sweets and lunchmeats.

Milk separation shock

The worst example of adulterated and diminished food involves milk (p. 64-65).

If you have ever wondered if today’s commercial milk has the same characteristics as that of your grandparents, you’re right to be sceptical.

Today, companies can make more from separating nutrients and enzymes than by selling milk in its entirety. The public then need to buy various milk elements separately in order to arrive at the entire nutritional profile.

Bové and Luneau tell us that:

– Researchers now understand the relationship between dairy proteins and amino acids which aid muscle formation. Isolating them from milk becomes big business. Sports medicine is the main target market of the resulting products.

– Dairy cows, depending on the breed and conditions, produce milk containing between 3.5% and 4.6% fat. The dairy industry — mass quantity milk producers, not the farmers — decided that whole milk should contain only 3.6% fat. The rest of the fat can be added to other products or processes, all of which make more money.

– Raw milk is either banned or difficult to buy because multinationals can remove its most important nutrients to make other products. This means that one has to spend a fortune on buying complementary dairy or dairy-derivative products: probiotics, supplements or other foodstuffs. These are then marketed separately for the athlete, expectant mother, children and students. Ker-ching!

The authors ask (emphases mine):

… while all these different molecular elements are in complex interactions in raw milk, this intelligent equilibrium explodes under all the physical or biological treatments (rechilling, heating, drying, acidification, etc.). Who is evaluating what and how those affect the properties of each fractured element? Not many people … the question merits asking with regard to the increase of certain pathologies linked to food, particularly allergies.

Food allergies only came widespread in the 1970s or 1980s. What causes them and why? It will probably take years before we get the whole story.

This also makes me wonder about the dramatic increase in Alzheimer’s and personality disorders. Our nerves, specifically the myelin sheath, need fat in order to remain healthy. (Reducing carbohydrate and added sugar to <20g a day largely eliminates the possibility of weight gain.)

Clearly, we are not getting the full package of nutrients from milk — or, for that matter, many other foods.

———————————————–

* Marianne, 6-12 March 2015, pp. 56-65

Regardless of whether one smokes tobacco, it is instructive to read of the effects smoking bans have on the leisure industry.

The Pub Curmudgeon has a tally of the numbers of pubs which have closed since July 1, 2007, the date England’s smoking ban came into effect. As I write, the number of defunct pubs now totals 14,192.

Now there are those who do not go to pubs, however, when one thinks how one piece of legislation could cripple such an inherent part of English life and culture, it beggars belief. Think of all the jobs lost through this draconian law.

To be sure, there are other factors, and the Pub Curmudgeon explores these — such as drink drive laws as well as large pub companies’ arrangements with their tenants — but, there is no question that the smoking ban is killing our pubs.

The Pub Curmudgeon says (emphases mine):

This is not a beer blog. It’s a view of life from the saloon bar, not entirely about the saloon bar – which of course is a metaphorical place as well as a physical one. It is as much about political correctness and the erosion of lifestyle freedom as it is about pubs and beer. And, while I enjoy cask beer, I don’t assume that it is the only alcoholic beverage worth consuming.

I’m a non-smoker, but not an antismoker. I believe the owners of private property should be entitled to choose whether or not smoking is permitted on their premises. If any supporter of pubs still thinks the smoking ban was a remotely good idea, just look around at all the pubs that have closed since 1 July 2007. The smoking ban is what prompted the creation of this blog back then and, while it touches on many other topics, it remains essentially its core theme. However, there remains much to be enjoyed and celebrated in pubs despite the effects of the ban.

I condemn drunken driving, but there is no evidence that driving after consuming a small quantity of alcohol is dangerous, and the campaign to discourage driving even within the British legal limit has been a major cause of the decline of the pub trade in recent years. Reducing the current legal limit – a proposal fortunately rejected by the Coalition government – would lead to the closure of thousands more pubs and would not necessarily save a single life. In my view, this is at least as much a threat to pubs as the smoking ban.

When Labour MPs discussed the smoking ban on news programmes, many cited how well local, then afterwards, statewide bans worked in California. Hmm. Not many Britons would compare our climate to California’s.

However, the California comparison seems to have been used in the US as well. Yet, whereas it’s relatively easy to spend time outdoors on a bar or restaurant terrace there for a smoke, the rest of the United States has a variable climate depending on where one lives. This makes the California comparison particularly disingenuous.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis has a few articles on the impact of smoking bans by state or region, including their effect on casino revenue.

In 2009, the St Louis Fed noted that Illinois was the only state at that time which extended the smoking ban to casinos. ‘No Ifs, Ands or Butts: Illinois Casinos Lost Revenue after Smoking Banned’ states:

In the first year after the smoking ban took effect, revenue at Illinois casinos fell sharply from the previous year.4 As shown in the figure, the decline in revenue stands in sharp contrast both to the growth of recent years and to the performance of casinos in nearby states.

The Illinois Casino Gaming Association, they say, disputes that and says the economic downturn was responsible.

I’m not a huge casino fan, but I do have empathy for people who may have lost their jobs there during that time. Casinos have gift shops and restaurants, too. They also generate a lot of tax, some of which gets put back into schools and communities.

The Fed’s chart shows that Illinois — in contrast to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri — experienced a huge drop in revenue in 2008:

Using our estimates of revenue losses and declining attendance at each of the casinos in Illinois, we find that the tax loss was more than $200 million in 2008. For the local communities, the total loss in tax revenue amounted to over $12 million.

The economic effects of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act—specifically with regard to casino revenue and government tax receipts—represent only part of the act’s overall impact. In a full analysis, these costs need to be considered alongside other costs and benefits, including the public health benefits of the legislation. But as policymakers in Illinois and elsewhere ponder the implications of the Illinois smoking ban, the impact on revenue, attendance and taxes should not be ignored.

It’s quite easy for people who live downstate to go to St Louis. Those in the Chicago area can spend an hour or less travelling to Indiana. Iowa is a stone’s throw away for many in western Illinois.

However, back to the California comparison. Another St Louis Fed article from 2008, ‘Clearing the Haze? New Evidence of the Economic Impact of Smoking Bans’ tells us:

A previous article in The Regional Economist (“Peering Through the Haze,” July 2005) described some early evidence on the economic impact of smoke-free laws and suggested that the findings were far from conclusive.1

As more communities have adopted smoke-free laws and more data have been gathered, economists have discovered new, significant findings. As an earlier article suggested, economic costs often focus on specific business categories—those that smokers tend to frequent.

They cite research saying that bar employment has gone down between 4 and 16 per cent. Restaurants have experienced less of a decline, however, it depends on where they are located and whether the majority of their clientele are smokers.

However, the real issue is climate:

Restaurants in warm climates fared better than those in cooler climates. The authors suggest that the reason for this might be that restaurants in warmer climates can more easily provide outdoor seating where smoking is not prohibited … Restaurants that suffered the dual curse of being in regions with colder climates and a high prevalence of smokers suffered statistically significant employment losses, on average.

California, therefore, cannot be used as a template for everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere.

The article features an item about the effects of the smoking ban on restaurants in Columbia, Missouri. It says, in part:

Since January 2007, all bars and restaurants in Columbia, Mo., have been required to be smoke-free. Only some sections of outdoor patios are exempt from the requirement.

Some local businesses have continued to oppose the Columbia Clean Air Ordinance, circulating petitions to repeal the law by ballot initiative. According to local press reports, owners of at least four establishments have cited the smoking ban as a factor in their decision to close their doors in 2007.

Recent data from the city of Columbia show a distinct decline in sales tax receipts at bars and restaurants. After rising at an average rate of 6.8 percent from 2002 through 2006, tax revenue declined at an annual rate of 1.3 percent over the first seven months of 2007. (See graph.) Although the data are still preliminary, initial analysis suggests a 5 percent decline in overall sales revenue at Columbia dining establishments since the implementation of the smoking ban. This estimate takes into account past trends, seasonal fluctuations in the data and an overall slowdown in sales tax revenue in Columbia. 6

Of course, as is true everywhere else, the answer is outdoor patio space:

One owner was quoted as saying, “You have to have a patio to survive.”7 The expenses associated with these renovations may help buffer the sales revenue of these establishments, but they also represent profit losses that are above and beyond the measured sales declines.

Two things are certainly true of smoking bans: they harm business and create unemployment.

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