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Update: what does the government’s Brexit plan really mean for consumers?

Brexit and Westminster

Theresa May’s government published their Brexit White Paper last week – but what does it really mean? Our resident Brexit expert Jane Wallace sets our latest findings…

Update: 12/10/2018

Today, we’ve released our no-deal Brexit report. Our in-depth research has revealed that the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit could mean ‘immediate’ and ‘severe’ consequences for millions of consumers.

We’ve assessed the government’s plans against the tests we set out in our Consumer Charter for Brexit in March 2018: Prices, Rights, Standards and Choice.

Close inspection reveals that the government’s technical papers on leaving the EU suggest a reduction in rights and choice, as well as price hikes that would have a ‘direct and hard’ impact on consumers.

Read our latest news

Download the full report

Update: 13/09/2018

Britons face the return of EU roaming charges under a ‘no-deal Brexit’. Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive of Which?, said:

“Two thirds of people think it is important that free roaming exists when travelling in the EU, so the news that we could face the return of sky-high charges to use our phones abroad will come as a real blow. If the Government is to deliver a Brexit that works for consumers, it needs to not only maintain free-roaming across the EU, but also look to extend the benefit of free-roaming for people visiting countries worldwide.”

Devil’s in the detail

It’s hard to find a front page that hasn’t spoken about Brexit following the Cabinet meeting at Chequers and the publication of the Government’s Brexit White Paper – it’s been everywhere.

As always we’ve been cutting through the rhetoric, reviewing how the Government’s negotiating position for the future UK-EU relationship measures up against our consumer charter.

Good news first: the paper is a certainly a welcome step for consumers including positive proposals Which? has been calling for to ensure a UK-EU deal delivers for consumers – from on-going access to goods, securing energy and food supplies and how people travel.

That said, the paper is not perfect and there are things missing, including a clear commitment that there will be no undermining of food standards – and there’s no commitment made to maintain mobile roaming when visiting the EU.

On the middle ground, there’s a lot contained in the paper where the devil will be in the detail.

We need the Government to ensure the details reflect the ambition such as ensuring an aviation agreement includes compensation so consumers can be confident in their rights.

It is also essential that the where the UK aligns with EU rules, consumer protection is paramount with meaningful input into future legal requirements covering consumer goods.

As well as at the negotiating table the Government must also take the initiative at home. Throughout the paper areas are outlined where the UK won’t align with the EU. In these spaces the Government must step up for consumers and pursue policies which at the very least maintain, if not improve, things for consumers.

There are also steps the Government can be taking now – investing in national systems to support the ambition in enforcement of consumer rights, product safety and food standards.

What we’re calling for

We’re writing to the Prime Minister to deliver our assessment of the white paper. As well as defending and developing the pro-consumer parts of the proposal we’ve outlined five key actions to take. We want the Government to:

1.Commit to maintaining current consumer protections e.g in food safety and quality

2. Ensure the Air Transport deal includes consumer rights such as flight delay compensation

3. Urgently reform the UK product safety and consumer protection system to stop dangerous products reaching our shelves

4. Set out a timeline for Brexit and keep consumers updated on what it actually means for them

5. Provide assurances that where we align with EU, the consumer voice will be represented

Fighting your corner

Of course, this paper is only a starting point and there will no doubt be changes as we move through the negotiations, but it’s reassuring consumer issues are being picked up. We now need to ensure they’re developed as the details are fleshed out and defended around the negotiating table.

As we enter this new phase where consumer issues are up for grabs in Brussels and at home, we’ll be holding the Government’s feet to the fire to ensure the issues consumers care about aren’t traded off or forgotten about and we’ll keep you updated as we go.

Have you been following the Brexit white paper? Would you welcome the Government talking more about what this means for you as a consumer? What would be the best way for the Government to reach consumers to provide updates?

Comments

The problem with scallop fishing seems to be partly down to the Brixham fishermen using dredging to rip them off the sea bed indiscriminately. That affects future stocks. Hopefully the agreement will stop that in future.

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Hardly surprising when the EU has been of great financial benefit to Ireland “How Ireland
has benefited from the EU
• Almost €76 billion received since
joining the EU in 1973.
• Over €57 billion has been paid in
support for agricultural programmes………………………

https://ec.europa.eu/ireland/sites/ireland/files/dublin.pdf
while the UK has been the second biggest contributor.
So why would Ireland want to leave such a beneficial arrangement?

The media have been reporting on contingency arrangements being contemplated by the National Police Chiefs Council in the event of disruption to supplies and services if the UK does not reach a suitable borders and trading relationship with the EU when we leave it in 200 days’ time. This was raised in an unrelated Conversation.

Duncan Lucas has cited the following newspaper article to show the extreme circumstances that have been identified in a typical set of worst-case scenarios –
https://metro.co.uk/2018/09/09/police-preparing-for-riots-and-disorder-in-event-of-no-deal-brexit-7928317/

Personally I have no doubt that the police have been giving extensive consideration to a wide range of potential situations that could arise if a combination of circumstances came together, and that the reporting is factually accurate based on documents seen by the press. It has not been denied although, understandably, there is no official comment forthcoming except from the Home Secretary who justifies the analysis and the preparations being identified.

I do not share the supposed alarm at these possible measures and think it is good that the authorities are embarking on comprehensive planning which might or might not need to be executed. Apart from anything else it is good training for all sorts of emergencies that could disrupt normal activity and it tests the availability and readiness of resources. I have no qualms about the involvement of the military; the Army sorted out the foot-&-mouth crisis in double quick time and they have some of the best logistics brains in the country plus a very competent command and control capability.

Some people regard this kind of story as scaremongering but I see it as effective public protection and resilience. I think the media have a legitimate public interest right to report it although I dislike the attempt to sensationalise it and, by implication, to exaggerate or embellish its implications.

Malcolm R commented as follows –
“Metro – NEWS… BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT” . . .
“This may sum it up. Why should I believe what the Metro says?
There were no riots when we voted to leave the EU, nor when the Conservatives were re-elected in the general election. No riots when we were taken into a war with Iraq. Do we really think that the remainers, or others, will riot? I find it hard to believe, unless some are misled once again as was tried before the referendum or more extreme factions try to stir up trouble.. But the general public? No, I think it will be a relief to get it over with.”

I tend to agree with Malcolm that there is unlikely to be any serious civil unrest and that the contingency planning that is now taking place will ensure that essential services and supplies are maintained. As I have said elsewhere, the notion that people dependent on medication are going to take to the streets in riotous protest is unsustainable, but it is nevertheless sensible to identify all the risks to the continuation of normality and identify the best solutions should something untoward occur whether in an isolated or general incident. I hope the press are not purporting to plant the thought that is the father of the deed.

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duncan, I agree about the apparently childish approach by the grandstanders in public, and have criticised this before. Not least – in fact probably most – the behaviour of our own politicians of all colours who, rather than putting constructive proposals together as an alternative “plan” seem to try to undermine what the government is doing, some clearly for personal advancement. I despair that we have such people running, or attempting, to run the country and that they attract supporters.

We – our politicians – should be supporting Brexit and working together to show a united front, instead of which they appear to be sabotaging our negotiations. A c***k of light suggests the EU realise they need good relations with the UK (I’m sure they always have) and are looking for a solution that will work. I’ve always said the deal will be last minute, as most negotiations are. will that be right?

Medicine prices are largely determined by the NHS and free, or at the prescription cost, to patients, so no one will have to pay top prices for prescription drugs.

The Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme The Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) is a voluntary UK-wide agreement between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) to control expenditure on branded medicines (generic products and those procured via ‘parallel trade’ – see the box on p 22 – are not included). Payments made by industry to the Department of Health and Social Care under the PPRS are distributed across the four health systems of the UK.”. It seems we procure independently of our EU membership including NHS pharmacies sourcing generic drugs from the cheapest sources.

The possible impact of Brexit will be on the funding of the NHS, should national income from taxes fall. But I don’t see, so far, any evidence of drug prices being dependent upon membership of the EU. Someone with knowledge in this area might well put me right.

Prescription drug supply is still manipulated by the large companies. They claim that costs are high because of the costs of research and development but despite this, often undercut the prices of generic drug suppliers. Pharmacists that I have spoken to have confirmed that they generally buy what is cheapest.

It would be useful to give evidence of the “manipulation”. Drug research seems a very risky businesses as far as success and then profitability go. Pricing individual drugs must be difficult when you cannot ascribe all the relevant costs, don’t know the likely take up, can’t predict when a competitor might enter the market.

We could have a national body also devoted to drug research and manufacture; a partnership between NHS and universities perhaps with the outcome on a not-for-profit basis.

However, I don’t think this is a simple issue. And would we have had the amazing advances in drugs today without the industry’s efforts?

“A version of the PPRS ( Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme) has been negotiated every five or six years since the mid‑1950s. The current instalment (running from January 2014 to the end of 2018) (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry 2014) includes two key mechanisms for cost containment: rate-of-return regulation for companies (which assesses the income that companies generate from the NHS in relation to their expenditure on activities like research and development) and an overall envelope for NHS spending on branded medicines over the lifetime of the agreement – a departure from previous versions of the PPRS, which included mandatory price cuts. In the current instalment it is the overall envelope that is controlling spend. The agreement allowed for flat spending in 2014 and 2015 followed by growth of 1.8, 1.8 and 1.9 per cent in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively (Department of Health and Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry 2013, p 35).

If sales to the NHS exceed the agreed level of growth, the industry makes payments to the Department of Health and Social Care. Industry payments in recent years have ranged from £311 million in 2014 to £846 million in 2015 (see Table 1). In 2015/16, the Department of Health received an additional £205 million from the Treasury within the financial year, partly justified on the basis of lower-than expected PPRS payments from industry (Dunhill 2016).

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The price of prescription drugs is specified by the Drug Tariff and my understanding is that all suppliers will receive the same payment for their version of the same drug. In my experience and confirmed by speaking to pharmacists the market leading brand is often supplied because the market leader undercuts the competition. Am I wrong?

At present some drugs are sourced from the EU. I sometimes get Glaxo inhalers made in the EU with a patient leaflet in English and a sticker in English stuck over the pressurised canister. No doubt it is cheaper to import the drugs and the only problem is that the sticker can very occasionally affect the mechanism. I wonder if drugs will continue to be imported in this way after Brexit.

I can live a reasonably normal life thanks to inexpensive prescription drugs. Unfortunately there are some very rotten apples in the pharmaceutical industry and it is well worth looking at the AllTrials Campaign to find out what is going on: http://www.alltrials.net Patrick Taylor has frequently drawn our attention to this campaign.

The media have clearly latched onto the question of medication availability post-Brexit and are trying to stir things up with prophecies of exorbitant price increases. Well, there might have to be some adjustment to prices – mainly due to the value of the pound – but we have been assured by those who are trying to push us out of the European Union with indecent haste that there will be plenty of money available for the NHS.

Rightly or wrongly I am still supporting the Chequers Agreement and the transitional way forward because I think there is no sensible alternative available and because it is the only way I can see of avoiding a hard border between Eire and Northern Ireland. It also meets some of the concerns of the Remainers and could attract their support in the final analysis. Nothing will satisfy those Leavers who want every shred and tissue of our relationship with the EU pulverised into dust and irreversibly expurgated from our national history.

I agree that is about time that a number of “politicians” and the press started to grow up and act responsibly.

There are “rotten apples” in all walks of life and they shouldn’t be used to condemn a whole industry.

If a tariff is agreed then I see nothing wrong with a market-leading brand being supplied, if it is as efficacious as others. Why would a pharmacist spend more than necessary?

It’s certainly not the pharmacists I’m condemning, but to claim that research and development is very expensive and then be able to undercut the price of other suppliers does not give me much confidence in their claims.

I presume R&D is spread across products, particularly since much of it will be unfruitful. The production of generic drugs presumably involves little, if any, drug R&D as it is simply the manufacturing process that is involved. Are you suggesting R&D is not expensive?

The patent period during which the patent holder has an exclusive right to make and sell drugs should give the opportunity to recoup the costs of research and development. Many drugs never make it to market and others are withdrawn for a variety of reasons but overall it’s generally lucrative, as can be seen by the success of the companies. It has become so difficult to develop new antibiotics that there is an unwillingness to invest, so there is the opportunity for government-funded research institutes to take this on.

If you want to carry on this off-topic discussion I suggest we move to The Lobby.

This line of discussion stemmed from a suggestion that we would suffer when we Brexit. Your suggestion of “manipulation” was then made, which I suspect we have exhausted by now.

I stand by what I said, Malcolm. If you want to continue the discussion, please move to The Lobby.

As I said above, I think we’ve (I’ve) exhausted it. But if you want it to continue then by all means move it. The off-topic diversion should probably have been started there in the first place.

@gmartin, George, there are already 6 responses to the Which? Report in the Lobby 2.Ahead of the game :-). Do you want to transfer all those to this Convo?

Thanks Malcolm. Can’t move them, but I’ve just posted in the Lobby with a link to here.

Phil says:
12 October 2018

I am sorry to be blunt but “Our in-depth research has revealed that the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit could mean ‘immediate’ and ‘severe’ consequences for millions of consumers” really is total nonsense unless of course you means the consequences will be severely good! There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that Brexit will be negative for the UK or its citizens – where is the evidence? Where are the facts?

I agree, Phil.

The revelations are not the product of “research” but are an interpretation of the answers to a survey of public opinion which might, or might not, be valid. To the extent that they are derived by Which? from any consideration of the possibilities, they are speculation.

We should bear in mind that press releases are written by media people for other media people and share a common intellectual heritage. In my opinion they are not suitable for reading by the public at large and it seems that many publications and media organisations now share that view and desist from reporting them, but the barrel once started on the path down the hill cannot be halted. The usual response from the press offices of desperate organisations is to issue more and more press releases. Which? has presumably noticed that Malcolm and others diligently pick them up every morning and put them through their analytical shredders . . . but still they keep on coming. QED.

There seem to be inconsistencies in Which?’s summary, and some dubious worries that are not expanded upon. For example:

”Three in five expect disruption to food supplies because of hold-ups at the border (61%)”, but then….”disruption to food supplies (70%) after a no-deal Brexit.”

“higher energy costs (60%)……” and then “the potential for rising energy costs (76%)”

“while more than two in five (44%) think medicine shortages are likely”…..and next “medicine shortages (71%) “

“Three quarters (75%) said it will be harder to resolve an issue with a faulty product bought online from a business based in the EU.” Do we not buy most products from UK based retailers, with whom the responsibility will remain? How many products do we buy direct from a non-UK retailer?”

“ …..while seven in 10 (70%) believe it will be more difficult to rely on protections in a European country should the travel company you bought a holiday from go bust.” How is this different from travelling in the rest of the world? Apart from any regulation, we’ll still be able to get travel insurance for the EU.

If we ever get to a withdrawal, it will no doubt be different. We survived after WW2, we came through the 3 day week of the ‘70s, we survived the banking crisis, and I’m sure we’ll stand on our own feet in the big wide world providing we have something to offer that they want.

The Which? ‘Brexit Tracker’ is “a nationally representative online survey of around 2,000 people“. That seems to be an incredibly small sample on something so complex, so full of nuances, so multi-dimensional as the unformed concept of Brexit.

Recent general elections have shown that the most professional of polling organisations are incapable of predicting voter responses and results. There is a conflict between (a) the scope of a survey and the number of people surveyed, and (b) the cost and logistics of the exercise. A truly representative survey would be unaffordable so they have to make do with a restricted headcount, an overstretched cross-sectional categorisation, and a package of questions that are so narrowed down in sensitivity that only a big bundle of assumptions can make anything of it. The pollsters and researchers will defend their analysis but, with the best will in the world, on-line surveys are unrealistic. People tend to complete on-line surveys, answering every question – however crudely scoped – whereas, in real life, people shade and hedge their responses; they shimmy around some points, elide and conflate others, and tell outright lies on some. No small sample can represent these tendencies however immaculately the socio-economic demographic is constructed. People are also heavily influenced by what they have just read in the media – so, if you ask whether they think their medication will be in short supply a day or two after the Daily Express or the Daily Mail have just sensationalised a rumour to that effect and it has spread like a contagion round the rest of the papers you end up with the plausible – but questionable – deduction that “more than two in five (44%) think medicine shortages are likely“. That sounds worse than saying “56% thought there was no likelihood of difficulties in getting their medication”.

Hi John – so sorry for my delay in posting this response. I’ve spoken to Chevone, who is one of our Insight Analysts, and this is what she’s advised me:

Generally, a sample of 1000 people is considered reliable for making inferences for large populations. There is a only a marginal increase in statistical power beyond a sample size of 1,000 for large populations. We use a sample of 2,000, which is double the ‘best practice’ size. For example, if we had a random sample, for a question where 50% answered a certain way, if we were to repeat the sampling 100 times, 95 of those be within +/-2.2 percentage points.

The reliability is also impacted by the quality of the sample, and here our research agency (Populus), like most, rely upon quota sampling (i.e. not a simple random sample) where targets are set to achieve a given number of interviews for demographic sub-groups, with minor differences from the achieved sample corrected via weighting.

While we would agree that online polling is not appropriate for all situations as there are known biases that can’t be adequately adjusted for, here we do not have such concerns. The specific case of predicting election results from online polling is difficult for a number of reasons, not least the fact that our democratic system is really 450 separate mini-elections that all have to be predicted correctly and then the results summed. This is quite different to extrapolating measures of attitudes or behaviours in the general population.

I’m also concerned about using people who are paid to complete surveys. I believe Populus does this, but that may not be the case in the Brexit survey, and some might say those fears are unfounded. I would prefer to see people without any financial incentive to be polled.

I, like others I think, would like to see what information is given to responders, and the questions they are asked with the rating system used, to have more faith in survey outcomes. Like John I believe the “news of the moment” (having to hire ships, great queues of lorries, for example to prevent shortages) colours people’s responses even though these may simply be sensible contingencies and not expectations by the government.

Seems to be that the people dealing in surveys have a vested interest in defending them – which is unsurprising generally done on the basis of maths and extrapolation. I think the point is that the questions are where the manipulation can occur; and then the article written from the data.

For instance if we asked what people thought about UK prisons the answers we get may involve a few with personal knowledge and possibly from opposite sides. If it were a paid for survey would both types of people with personal knowledge be included in, or out. Would they lie if the question was asked?

Apart from that the huge majority of the respondents only know about prisons from what is reported. So immediately after a prison riot one would expect a difference response than six months previously.

It seems to me surveys reflect a slightly filtered view of what the media has been pushing at THAT time. And it I also suspect that many many people do not consciously consider these matters until presented with a question[s] specifically asking for a response. Given it is on-line and you are paid for an opinion, regardless of what it is, would many people just give the first answer that comes to mind.

I think that surveys purport to be “scientific” when in fact whilst the maths hold-up to a degree the surveyed population is self-chosen, the questions are normally purposeful, the timing is often reactive to current events, and the interpretation – or suppression of the results is up to the commissioning company.

Should Which? be playing this game at all? It seems to be posturing which sits ill with its complete failure to notice the abuse of new build leaseholds over the last decade and take any action.

lease-advice.org/news-item/government-consults-on-implementing-reforms-to-leasehold

And some background
“So, while new-build leasehold houses accounted for only 7% of transactions in 1995, they rose to 15% in 2016. Leasehold houses are particularly common in the north-west, where 32% of house transactions were leasehold in that year.

“There is some evidence that developers were opting to sell new-build houses on long-lease agreements as this can represent a lucrative future income stream,” says the House of Commons library report on the issue. Some housebuilders introduced eye-wateringly exploitative clauses into the lease, such as ground rents that doubled every 10 years. Taylor Wimpey was the main offender here, but it has put aside £130m to sort the problem.

The government finally woke up to this scandal last year and has pledged to end leasehold houses and set new ground rents to as low as zero. There are about 100,000 properties, flats and houses that are now unsellable because of onerous ground-rent terms: that is where ground rents double every 10 years or are higher than 0.1% of the sale price.”
theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/20/leasehold-money-making-racket-reform

Thanks Alex.

I respect the analyst’s comments but find them somewhat self-serving and I remain unconvinced that on a subject like Brexit a sample of 2,000 is adequate.

Alex: I think I agree with John on this. There is a great deal of research on the subject and to name but one, “Deliberation, cognitive diversity, and democratic inclusiveness: an epistemic argument for the random selection of representatives” ( Hélène Landemore
Synthese Vol. 190, No. 7, THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF INCLUSIVENESS (May 2013),
)the general view would seem to be that the greater the sample size the better the subsequent deductions and conclusions.

Professor Khalid Hassan, from the University of Diyala provides a mathematical proof:

n= N / ( 1+ N * e^2 )
and from infinite population by :
n= ( Z^2 * S^2) / E^2
where : Z ( 1.96 for 0.05 and 2.58 for 0.01 )
S = standard deviation from previous studies or pilot study
E = significant level

but adds that cost is often the determining factor in sample size.

Considering that almost all the major pollster organisations got the results of the last general election hopelessly wrong, perhaps it’s worthwhile re-examining statistical methodologies in the light of what seems to be a societal trend towards greater divisiveness in the future?

““From grounded flights and delays at borders and airports, to food shortages and soaring energy prices, the impact could be immediate and catastrophic for millions of people, with disruption on a scale not seen since the consumer chaos of the 1970s.

“The Government must agree a deal with the European Union to prevent a disaster scenario for consumers that hits them in the pocket and sees valuable rights effectively snatched away from them.”

This kind of juvenile scaremongering, largely based on public perceptions, (we only guess the consequences from similar dramatic reports) is unworthy of a consumers association. It, no more than anyone, does not know the outcome, and what point is there in speculating? “Catastrophic” (impact), “soaring” energy prices, “disruption”, “disaster”, “snatched away” ……etc. I can get such journalism if I bought The Sun, but not something I expect from Which?

The EU needs a deal that works as well as the UK, in my view, and such negotiations go to the wire. Unfortunately we are driven by political gamesters – the big sticking point is the Irish one – rather than pragmatic solutions. Most other issues appear to have been resolved.

I responded to a survey. If a rational and dispassionate summary were given I’d still have been critical, because most of the questions required uninformed speculation. I hope the new regime will put a stop to such silly pronouncements.

Phil says:
12 October 2018

The Irish border issue is an excellent example that will demonstrate how things will go. The Republic isn’t going to want to lose or slow down over 50% of its trade so there will come a point when it will turn to its EU masters and say – we need this to happen so you, EU, need to compromise. The negotiation needs to be between EU members and the EU, not the UK and the EU, as it is the members who are going to lose things they cannot easily replace. Our big mistake was to engage in negotiation – we should have said two years ago “we are leaving if you want anything from us please start a negotiation.” We have put ourselves in an apparently subordinate position by initiating negotiation and the EU continually takes advantage of this by bullying and threatening what they perceive to be the weaker party – take care EU our time is about to come!

Phil says:
12 October 2018

The fear that there might be a shortage of medicines following Brexit is a perfect example of a factoid which is defined as “An item of unreliable information that is reported and repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact.” The very life blood of many newspapers.

A Populus survey of 2065 was referenced in the report. As John says, not many on which to base such an assertive report, in my view. I believe Populus uses paid survey respondents (is that true?). If so, I’m not sure how representative “professional” survey completers are. When Which has a huge Connect base (30 000?) I would think a survey their might be more useful – weighted as they say the Populus was. I seem to remember filling in a Which? survey not long ago on Brexit, but can see no mention in the report references at the end.

The press release Which? makes seem weighted towards the negatives of Brexit, with no mention of positives. Is this balanced and fair? Does Which? have an agenda? I do hope not, because Brexit seems dominated by people with their own agendas and I’m weary of that. If only I felt those “in positions of power” were actually working together to find the best solution, rather than trying to advance themselves or their party…….

I’m a little concerned that we’re being too harsh. I’m certainly willing to come down hard on Which? when they really, really deserve it – such as the appalling which.net episode. But this is simply a bit of imaginative journalism with which we don’t agree, but that’s all. It certainly doesn’t have the immediate effect of depriving members of their email addresses, or even of hiding the member reviews.

Perhaps we should reserve the nuclear option for the actions that really deserve it.

I see no “nuclear option” just comments on what Which? has published in a very assertive way. The press release uses very emotive words and phrases for speculative pronouncements. I do not see it as a considered and balanced assessment. That is what I would hope Which? would be providing for consumers.

Well, it’s in the eye of the beholder, obviously, but it could be argued that ten strongly condemnatory posts in the space of 24 hours on Which?’s article and survey methodology by two people might be worthy of the appellation.

Additionally, using phrases such as “juvenile scaremongering” and “silly pronouncements” and leading questions such as “Does Which? have an agenda?” which, as any commentator knows, raises a question that places a hitherto unconnected topic firmly in the minds of the readers can be perceived as a direct attack on the institution’s approach and techniques.

I’m happy to criticise Which? on certain issues, and have done, as everyone knows. But it seems to me the article in this instance doesn’t warrant the level of response it’s getting. Effectively, this is nothing new; The Government, this week alone, has issued 160 warning memos about what will have to happen in the event of a no-deal outcome, and in effect Which? is simply communicating its own concerns.

I think it is legitimate for us to raise concerns about the rigour of research methods when they are used in such a vital context as Brexit, and also to review the language used to see if it is tendentious. It is widely assumed that Which? speaks with authority. It has been my view that Which? has succumbed on occasions to slapdash and sensationalist reporting. I don’t have a problem with Which? communicating its own concerns based on its thorough analysis of verifiable factors, but regurgitating vox pop responses without relevant contextual information or a transparent methodology is not satisfactory – in my opinion at least.

I also consider the language used in publicising Which?’s deductions tends to be unnecessarily sensational although I cannot understand why. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Which? insults its readers’ intelligence because I don’t know what the average intelligence level is but the thought has crossed my mind.

The fact that this has generated ten comments in a discussion over two days is not particularly relevant: that is how conversations generally run.

If one of the popular tabloid newspapers behaved in this way I wouldn’t take any notice but when it is Which? then I feel the bar is higher and should be maintained at that level. Occasionally Which? needs a critical friend.

I am criticising Which?’s “approach and techniques” on their press release as I have on other issues where, in my opinion, they have not made a fair, balanced objective report. The comments I have made can be countered by others. That is what a Convo is for, in my view.

I agree with both of you with regard to the instruments used by Which? and the ways in which they’re used. That’s not really the point I was making.

I suppose in a sense I become depressed that when any topic with the word ‘Brexit’ in the title is debated it tends to encourage extreme positions and it’s the extreme nature of the responses in here that make me unhappy.

I’m pretty certain that the person who drafted the original release was working to a prescribed style but some comments in here have been pointed and verging on the abusive. All I’m saying is that in the scheme of things the content and style of that release wouldn’t concern me and almost certainly doesn’t concern most who read it. I think there are more deserving targets we should reserve our real concerns for.

“Abusive”??? Where?
My comments relate to a press release, likely to be repeated in some publications given the status Which? has. It is in public, particularly, where I believe Which? should be seen to be objective, fair and balanced.

I think the phrase “juvenile scaremongering” when applied to a release written and composed by a W? employee verges on the abusive, to be honest, just to give one exmaple.

Hardly abusive. Perhaps a little intemperate as an irritated response to what I felt was a overblown piece of journalism, rather than a measured comment from a responsible organisation.

What happens when we leave the EU is, at the moment, speculative. If we do have a “no deal” exit it may well be disruptive but, in my view, I doubt the airlines, for example, will allow flights to be grounded, and other businesses will want to keep a good customer so common sense will, I suggest, prevail.

I travelled by car in Europe before we joined, and it was no great inconvenience. I travelled in and out by plane without problems. I don’t see why such normality should not return. We still travel to, trade with, non EU countries in a relatively unhindered way.

As far as food is concerned, it would not be a bad thing, in my view, if we produced more ourselves.

So I remain optimistic that the world will not come to an end, and that problems will be resolved because that would be in every one’s interests.

I’m sure they will be – in time. It’s what happens meanwhile that concerns me.

I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what the benefits are from leaving the EU and backing that up with just a little bit of evidence in support. Anything at all. Getting fed up of the “everything will be alright brigade” leading the UK into a fictional fantasy world which doesn’t appear to have any basis anywhere but in their dreams. In fact I’m hoping to wake up from this nightmare to find that someone with some common sense has asked the question what are we doing? Now to be fair if someone has an answer to that question that can be verified and supported by some evidence which shows that I will not be dead before my life here gets much better then I may be swayed. Could which? allay my fears. NO? All I can see is doom and gloom. Goods and service rising in price. Foreign holidays no longer value for money etc. Please some “leaver” somewhere tell me it’s all going to be alright. By alright I mean better than it was before now and not possibly in 50 years time.

We don’t know, do we?

The safe option was to stay with the devil we know. That was how my vote was cast, but very marginally. I didn’t see the UK treated particularly well by the EU, and it is certainly not a club of equals. We were one of the few who chipped in to help other states, by about £8-10bn a year, so we won’t be doing that for much longer. I would prefer the UK to have the freedom to set up its own trade relationships, on the basis we have something to offer others outside as well as inside the EU, and I would like us able to determine our own affairs – such as giving UK companies contracts instead of having to put out tenders Europe-wide.

I don’t think, with our strengths, it will be armageddon. Changes may be inconvenient initially but I believe they will be resolved. it is business that really decides what goes on, not politicians.

So – we just don’t know. But doom mongering is not called for. In my opinion.

The Which? report says:
The success of Brexit will ultimately be defined by what it delivers for consumers and what matters to them most. Our four tests for a successful
Brexit for consumers are whether it:
• Limits the potential for price rises and increases in the cost of living.
• Maintains or enhances the current high safety standards.
• Maintains or enhances consumer choice of a high-quality range of
products and services.
• Supports consumers with a system that ensures their rights and access
to redress.

The only one of these I see as uncertain is the price rises, and that will take time to settle. I see no reason why safety standards should change – why should we change them?. I see no reason why our choice of products and services should suddenly become low quality. And consumer rights would be under our control – their future will be in our own hands. Why should we see those diminish? These latter three seem more under our control out of the EU than in it,. Whether we use that positively is up to us.

Safety standards change all the time. What we need to consider is whether the interests of the big corporations will trump those of a single small island. Because whether we agree or not, the advantage of being part of the EU was its sheer size. Manufacturers selling dodgy goods will find it much easier to do that once the EU is no longer involved.

What is not understood by some is that once out we have to deal with every consumer issue by ourselves, and those who ask “why should we change them?” it seems to me ignore or don’t understand the power and influence of the big corporations.

We’re living in the era of the TransNats – massive, global corporations whose incomes comfortably exceed those of most countries’ GDP. Whereas even the EU has to struggle to tame some of them, such as Google and FB – a small island nation has no chance.

I share your concerns about the power and influence of big transnational companies, Ian – especially those which meet a popular social purpose and have rapidly gained a huge loyalty following. This can seriously challenge a government.

There has always been the risk that, in the urge to boost exports or develop internal markets, standards will be lowered. These concerns were raised during the run-up to the Referendum but brushed aside under the label of ‘project fear’. At least our small island nation will be able to introduce its own laws to deal with market abuse as rapidly as necessary and without requiring the assent of many other states if the circumstances justify it. We can change our government faster than the EU can turn anything round and I think that is one of the popular appeals of Brexit. The other was control over immigration which effectively trumped all other considerations.

The only thing is that I wish I shared your optimism regarding the speed with which a UK government can act.

“Manufacturers selling dodgy goods will find it much easier to do that once the EU is no longer involved.“. Most of us buy from retailers, not manufacturers, and rely on them to buy products from reputable sources. The point here is that the UK subscribes to the international standards system so the safety standards we apply are those used throughout the EU, and much of the rest of the world. Issued in the UK generally as BS EN #######s. There is absolutely no reason I can see why Brexit should have any effect on this. We will use the same standards and help in their development; essential for international trade (in both directions).

What will be in our hands, as it is now, is the way we police the products that are put on sale to ensure they comply with regulatory standards, and the regulatory standards that we maintain and establish. A poor system will still let in products from delinquent manufacturers, those who cheat with fraudulent products such as Which? has exposed – smoke and CO alarms of late. We need to ensure we have access to any database of unsafe products and the organisation to deal with those that are intended for distribution in the UK.

My point was that standards change. All the time. There are numerous competing interests with regard to establishing standards and it could be that once out of the EU we may have less protection and will certainly have far less influence over any changes that will be made.

What standards change? As far as international safety standards are concerned BSI will continue to be a fully-contributing member as they are now, as far as I can see. They can no doubt contribute to any EU variations proposed if we proceed sensibly, and can adopt an EN to ensure we stay within the harmonised standards regime. Our “influence” I’d suggest is as much technical as anything, and likely to carry the weight its merit deserves but we will be, as now, part of a group that works by consensus, rather than influence. Just my view.

All standards change over time. You only have to look back a couple of decades to see just how much they have.

Those I’ve been involved with have changed for the better, in both the light of experience and as technology has evolved.

Perhaps for now, but there’s nothing to say they always will, or that leaving the EU with its size and influence, will not have a negative impact on the setting of standards.

I don’t envisage any international standards being relaxed but it will be open for a perverse UK government in the future to authorise temporary derogations from them or just de-specify them from specific products or categories. I consider both highly unlikely because it will be essential for competitive reasons that we keep all our manufactures up to the highest possible standard. Lowering standards will not help the bottom line and the focus will have to be on productivity improvements not product degradation.

Like a lot of the Brexit debate, someone has come up with a ‘What-if?” and it has run away with itself for no good reason. Is there some obscure suspicion that the government will try to help UK producers by making it more difficult for foreign companies to compete because they are tied to a higher set of standards? To take this seriously there would have to be some powerful evidence of the competitive and commercial advantage of such an approach given that the market place is now global and that the UK intends to be a bastion of free trade.

Your point about a ‘perverse UK Government’ is precisely my concern. And we can be certain foreign governments will do their utmost to capitalise on any perceived weaknesses (we can be sure they already have, in fact; we know for certain that Russia has actively promoted interference in US affairs and there’s a very strong belief in some quarters that they may well have played a part in the brexit vote) and the value of being in the admittedly imperfect EU was its sheer size and consequent inertia.

Soon, we’ll be in some version of ‘on our own’ and it will be both fascinating and terrifying to watch how things change.

Only the UK electorate can elect a ‘perverse’ government and if they do they will deserve the consequences. I assume the choices at the next general election will be clear and wide open.

Hmmm…given that most of the parties are currently riven with internal strife, usually over matters of basic ideology, and that leading any of them amounts to, in effect, managing a coalition I’m not sure there will be any such thing as a ‘clear and wide open’ choice which, from your phrasing, I suspect is what you also fear.

phil says:
13 October 2018

I notice that the people who say Brexit is going to be anywhere between difficult and disastrous are either remainers or those with a political benefit to gain, Corbyn, Sturgeon, the EU hierarchy, etc., from peddling this belief. I no longer bother to listen.

phil says:
13 October 2018

I notice that the people who say Brexit is going to be anywhere between difficult and disastrous are either remainers or those with a political benefit to gain

or possibly those with more foresight and experience?

Ah, those who “know best”?

Sometimes, those who “know best” really do. Although it can come as a shock to those who think they know everything already.

Maybe those who voted for Brexit also had experience and foresight.

One thing that seems to be lacking among all the “experts” – and those in the current administration certainly have more experience of the workings of the EU than most of the rest of us – is any consensus as to what is best. Perhaps they just lack foresight.

There is a view that young people will be most affected by the decision – because they will live with it for longer. Not a view I share, as many others will live with it for a long time and should have an equal say. However, one thing that most of the young lack is experience on which to base such a decision.

It is those who think they know best that seem to wish to impose their superior expertise upon others. Luckily we live in a democracy where we all have an equal vote as each of our views may be valid, for our own reasons.

We don’t all have an equal vote – far from it. Even a decent version of PR wouldn’t give that. But looking for the worst dangers of a potential situation and how they can be mitigated is the job of the MPs and administration. They have a responsibility to the majority of the electorate that didn’t vote for brexit to anticipate the worst that can happen and make contingency plans.

It’s interesting that we’re heading into a situation where no one seems to know for sure what will happen. When you say “It is those who think they know best that seem to wish to impose their superior expertise upon others” apart from the likes of Johnson, who was utterly confident that the world would be beating a path to our doorstep after March 19th and who also kept claiming that we’d be giving the NHS an extra £350m per week after that date, I can’t think of anyone who can forsee what will happen. Many, however, know what will happen should there be no customs agreement.

Until we have a proposed deal to consider, of course no one can foresee what will happen, even those with “foresight”. The £350m a week was not believed by many of course because it was shown to be incorrect.

We have an equal vote – one for each voter – but I see no system that will ensure an ideal outcome. Better if we have equal size constituencies, I would think. But is the best outcome a government formed on the basis of the majority vote? Some didn’t like an EU referendum conducted on the basis of a majority.

However, I’ve deviated from the topic. A single vote per eligible person, whether they each had foresight and experience or not, seems the fairest way to ballot an issue. But, as with a general election, independence or Brexit the issue is never that simple and only reveals its complexities when the vote is done and the details need to be discussed and resolved. The final outcome will never please everyone, no more than the detailed policies following a general election, or the consequences of independence. But if the general feeling was to require a particular outcome it is up to the politicians to work for the best results – why we employ them. Lets see what happens over the next few weeks.

“A single vote per eligible person, whether they each had foresight and experience or not, seems the fairest way to ballot an issue.”

I agree. Which is why I believe it’s essential another referendum is held before the curtain comes down.

Phil says:
15 October 2018

Another referendum – what would the question be? By coincidence I was stopped in the high street on Saturday and asked to contribute to a Brexit survey focused on another vote – I asked what the question would be and was told it would be accept the deal or stay in the EU. I pointed out that as we had already voted to leave another vote could only focus on how, not if, we would leave so deal or no deal. The interviewer went a bit pale around the gills as he clearly thought the second referendum could be used to overturn the first one – my parting comment was “be careful what you wish for!”

Given that we voted to leave by a narrow majority and also that we don’t seem capable of resolving issues like the Irish Border, it is really right that we should be leaving, come what may, in about 200 days time?

One problem with holding a public plebiscite is that it opens the door for more. Once a government says “We must listen to the will of the people” then there’s really no credible argument that they shouldn’t hold them on a regular basis, or at least until all those in the government who held the first one have been thrown out.

This is precisely why the UK does not govern by plebiscite.

Phil says:
15 October 2018

General elections haven’t resulted in a majority since the early 1930s but we cope just fine so why would a vote that resulted in a majority present a problem?

The public have already taken the difficult decision, to leave the EU. It’s a great pity that we can neither trust nor rely on the politicians to do the easy bit and get us out of there. Too much fighting amongst themselves with an eye on their personal futures, and that applies to both main parties.

I think most people are absolutely appalled that after two years of thrashing around we don’t seem to be much nearer to knowing a likely outcome. But then it was always likely to end like this. Malcolm has previously said that negotiations would go to the wire. I suppose an eleventh hour compromise will be hammered out to everyone’s dissatisfaction.

Those of us with long memories know that, so far we’ve voted first to join the common market and then to leave the EU.

Phil says:
15 October 2018

We were never given a vote about joining but we were given a vote a few years after joining as to whether we should remain in. The government campaign in support of remaining was very dishonest as it continued the lies that this was just a common market – just about trade – when it was already known by our government that the end game was full; political, judicial, economic and fiscal union. For many, that dishonesty drives the passion to leave in as complete a manner as possible.

Phil – are you saying that lies and disinformation resulted in a referendum giving a poor outcome?

John, the reason that the politicians have failed to get a deal is because they are trying to deliver the undeliverable. The Leave campaign misled the electorate by saying a deal would be easy.

When Liam Fox was asked about how to solve the question of goods crossing the Irish border during a BBC1 debate on 26th May 2016, his response was that the Common Travel Area (comprising the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) would continue to operate. The presenters failed to point out to him that the Common Travel Area has nothing to do with customs controls on goods; it’s about immigration controls on people. This is the incompetence that led to Brexit, and the same incompetence is likewise leading to no deal.

I’d suggest it would be easier if the politicians wished it to be. I’m sure all EU businesses would want it. The worst part about the whole process is the unwillingness of the EU politicians to accept that, whether DC’s pledge to have a referendum was right or wrong, it was the UK people who voted, by a margin, that they wanted to leave the EU. Not the UK government. By trying to thwart, frustrate or at best make as difficult to achieve as possible, the wishes of our people seems undemocratic.

All concerned should have made every effort to see, in the last 2 years, that a sensible way was found to achieve that. Instead of which continual obstacles have been placed in the way. Presumably the worry is that if the UK leaves on friendly terms other states will want to do the same. The political ambitions of the EU would then be threatened.

I’d prefer we had what was a common market where trade and services were facilitated but each country stood on its own feet.

The idea of the EU is for those nations that are prosperous to help the less fortunate. D’you not agree that’s a laudable aim?

I’d like us to have the choice as to who we help and, preferably, how that money is spent. We already help those we choose to help through our Foreign Aid. That does need “cleaning up” to ensure it goes to worthy causes.

We contributed about £50m to Poland to help renovate a motorway when we have vast numbers of potholes in our own roads that we appear unable to afford to repair. It would have dealt with about 600-700 000 of them.

I think a laudable aim is to decide how we spend our own taxes and who the beneficiaries should be. But that’s just a personal view, of course.

But that’s always going to be the case when you join a large community. It’s exactly the same in the UK, with some complaining that some things and some areas are given far too much in relation to others, with some people complaining about what is being provided. Helping others out is the entire rationale of the EU, but that’s not to say some people won’t be unhappy about who gets what.

Its never going to be possible to please everyone all the time, especially those who are preoccupied with taxation and, of course, you fail to specify who “we” comprises in the sentence below.

When you say “I think a laudable aim is to decide how we spend our own taxes and who the beneficiaries should be”, since we – the UK – are able to veto anything we didn’t like, I don’t understand what you mean.

Phil says:
14 October 2018

“Foresight and experience” is typically an oxymoron as those with experience think they know best and are therefore resistant to contemplate anything different or new. Einstein observed that imagination is more important than experience – experience applies limits while imagination knows no bounds. However, if experience really is your thing, take a look at the interview with Lord Wolfson on the Andrew Marr show this morning where you will see a perfect application of experience being used to imagine a better way.

Phil says:Today 12:08

“Foresight and experience” is typically an oxymoron as those with experience think they know best

Really? Does that apply – say, to cardio surgeons? Or Airline Pilots, to name but two? Imagination is a vital component for any innovation, but it’s experience that’s required to realise the imagined ideas. That’s why, after so many years, highly experienced Physicists are still attempting to confirm what Einstein imagined. I’ve often imagined a flying car, but I lack the experience to build one.

Never mind, going forward we’ll be able to blame everything on Brexit…

True… 🙂

Phil says:
14 October 2018

Interesting that you chose those examples as I started out training as an airline pilot so I do know quite a bit about what success looks like for that profession. Experience does matter but problem solving is the paramount skill.

Phil says:
14 October 2018

Quite a lot of companies are already blaming Brexit for their inability to run their businesses.

Problem solving ability, often in an open-minded approach to an issue, is a great asset in most, if not all, walks of life both personal and professional. It builds experience. Foresight is something that is far easier with hindsight, but experience does help with the odds when making predictions..

Phil says:
15 October 2018

Crucial to problem solving is the ability to contemplate things beyond your experience otherwise you will just keep doing what you have always done and you will keep on getting the same outcome.

So how do you solve a problem like Brexit and the Irish border?

Phil says:
15 October 2018

It isn’t our, the UK’s, problem to solve the Irish border question – we won’t build a border so if there is one after we have left it can only have been constructed by the EU so it is clearly the EU that has a problem to solve.

Derek: did you mean to parody the R & H song? If so, the original words are curiously apt (with some slight modifications):

How do you solve a problem like a brexit?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means a brexit?

A flibbertigibbet?
A will of a whisp?
A clown?

Many a thing you know you’d like tell them,
Many a thing they ought to understand,
But how do you make them stay?
And listen to all you say,
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

Could make a very nice sketch on a satire show…

Ian – an insightful question, but on this occasion I was only guilty of borrowing that line from a recent BBC news report.

My parents were G&S fans and from school in Worcester Flanders & Swann and Victor Borge also got mixed in to my musical education. So a liking for making parodies of popular songs is embedded quite deeply in me…

Phil, that’s amazing.

I, too, favour not having hard borders between ourselves and the EU, so that Polish plumbers, Parisien chefs, Pakistani doctors and others can freely come and go as they please.

Phil says:
15 October 2018

The border is about goods and services not people. Some countries within the EU are raising the debate about the freedom of movement issue as #1 it favours the poor nations and disadvantages the rich ones and #2 it has led to an increasing number of serious security issues. For the UK, we are over populated and we must control the rate at which our population grows at least until the additional infrastructure demand can be met.

So Phil, all those passport controls that I’ve recently passed through at airports like Charlotte, NC, Praha and Heathrow, those were only for airline security purposes and nothing to do with national borders?

Phil says:
16 October 2018

No; it is for the security of the country you are trying to enter.

I’m for sticking with the devil you know until someone can show that to be the wrong way. So far nothing.

I think it fortunate that the UK did not join the Euro. That seemed in part to add to the woes of Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece. At least the £ could find its own level as our economy fluctuated. We never committed to Europe really. Maybe if we were rather half-hearted we are better off out rather than in.

The safe option, as I voted, would have been to remain. That does not mean leaving would be a disaster. I still maintain that will depend upon our strength as a trading and manufacturing nation.

No; we were always ‘reluctant’ Europeans; very true. The Euro is interesting. I always wondered if the refusal to join the Euro was initiated because some in the Government believed Sterling would do well if any of the EU countries suffered confidence issues. Certainly worked that way for the Swiss, but currency fluctuations are swings and roundabouts.

Malcolm, I agree with you that the UK was right not to join the Eurozone. The UK was also right not to join Schengen, which is why we have control of our borders. Being in the EU but outside both the Eurozone and Schengen gives the UK the best of both worlds. So why leave?

Phil says:
16 October 2018

The issue is that there are other things coming down the line that we won’t want to sign up to so we will progressively become a marginal member of the EU. Being a partial member, with reduced influence, of a toxic body such as the EU would be very unwise so the most attractive door is the one marked no deal exit.

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The Americans seem to thrive on this “toxic” food. As far as I am concerned, providing the food is properly labeled I will have the choice of what sort of chicken or beef I buy. I will not be “forced” to eat it. Presumably the many Brits who visit the USA as tourists or on business return unscathed.

I hope one outcome, if we ever leave, is encouraging more home-produced food, as used to be the case. That could be helped by redirecting the current payments based on land ownership to helping finance productive food enterprises.

Phil says:
16 October 2018

We buy some of our gas from Russia, we sell arms to Saudi Arabia and we buy billions worth of goods from China – the very nature of international trade means compromise that can challenge ones standards and principles. The UK is very close to the top of the leader board in food safety so I have no fears when it comes to food imports from the USA – its citizens don’t seem to be dropping like flies!

Phil says:
16 October 2018

I meant to add; what is toxic about the EU is its political ambitions not the food it sells us.

It’s interesting to see the way people refer to the “EU” as some sort of remote organisation when, in fact, we’re a major part of everything in it We also have the power of veto, so why would we agree to anything ‘toxic’ if we didn’t want to?

It’s all about quid pro quo,Ian. We have conceded on some things in order to get what we wanted on others. This is the UK civil service approach to avoiding disharmony but it hasn’t paid off. Best to leave now, I think, and avoid the dilemmas. Not every measure is open to a veto, of course; many changes go through on a majority.

But curiously many EU countries ignore the EU regulations with which they don’t agree. Germany is, apparently, the biggest offender in this respect. And EU laws pass through several stages of negotiations in the Council and the European Parliament.

So the UK government’s ability to influence policies doesn’t only occur through voting – which is a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ situation – but also in negotiations over the actual text of a draft law.

Many accounts have shown that the UK diplomatic service has – at least historically – been very skilled in such negotiations over important laws. Furthermore, on several occasions a minister has voted ‘No’ to a measure supported by a majority of British MEPs, including those from the minister’s own party.

In fact, it would seem that the three countries which vote most similarly in almost all respects on EU matters, are the UK, Germany and Austria.

I agree. The more we have found out the more difficult it has become to support any form of continued involvement with such an inconsistent and unreliable organisation where the only way to achieve anything is to game every situation. As for our MEP’s, I think they are widely perceived to have been a costly irrelevance.

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As I said, duncan, I like an informed choice. The top countries for cancer incidence, according to this, are
Australia, NZ, Ireland, Hungary, US, Belgium, France, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands……
https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/cancer-trends/data-cancer-frequency-country

duncan, how much comes from the USA? According to these figures, likely to be very little of the other 9%. Maybe fracking will help?

The UK currently produces enough gas to meet almost half of its needs (44%) from the North Sea and the East Irish Sea.

We also import 47% of the gas we use via pipelines from Europe and Norway. The remaining 9% comes in to the UK by tankers in the form of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).https://www.britishgas.co.uk/the-source/our-world-of-energy/energys-grand-journey/where-does-uk-gas-come-from

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I have no doubt that excellent quality home-produced fresh meat and vegetables will continue to be available in the future, as well as from the continent if desired, and there will be no necessity for people to eat American food if they don’t wish to. If there is a demand for it I am also sure that UK retailers will ensure that it is correctly labelled and safe to eat so the consumer can make their choice. I feel that some of this talk is all part of the scaremongering that has pervaded all discussions on Brexit.

Hopefully food we buy from retailers is honestly labelled and this will continue, but what are we given when we eat out and what will happen in future? I think it is right that we should be concerned about the quality and safety of our food.

I hope we always will be concerned about the quality of our food. One problem, especially in the eating-out market, is that people like meals that are not very good for them and they eat too much. The food itself is often of good quality and entirely safe but in combination on the plate, and given the quantities served, the health risks are coming from factors other than the nature of the food.

In a fast-food outlet you can eat a burger made from excellent UK beef but if it is oversized, covered in various toppings and dressings, has lashings of other stuff all round it, and is served in a massive white-bread bun, what hope is there? Over-indulgence, not poor quality food, is the killer. Snacking and easy-meals at home add to the problems, and these choices also cost more than wholesome, adequate meals.

Eating out is far more popular for most people than it was when we were children. Large portions tend to attract more customers. It’s not just fast food outlets that provide large portions. I attended a function at the ICC in Birmingham recently and was served with a very large portion of fillet steak and very few vegetables. Our supermarkets are full of tempting food that can be eaten straight from the packet or popped in the oven or microwave.

I am not entirely happy about food safety. While it is mandatory for premises to be inspected, only in Wales is it a requirement to display ratings and for reasons I do not understand, food can continue to be served in premises where serious deficiencies have been demonstrated. I have said a great deal about my concerns about the safety of chicken and am very disappointed that when action was being taken to publicise the problems in the industry, there is now little publicity to drive continued improvement.

Just like product safety, ensuring food is safe in takeaways and when eating out requires proper policing. Not just the food, but the practices and the premises. Unless we are prepared to properly fund people to investigate and oversee such things we will always be at risk from rogues in the industry, or careless behaviour. I can see no other answer and hope Which? will campaign to get government to properly fund the services we need to keep us safe. Is there any better solution?

I read recently that the Local Government Association [which represents local authorities] is pressing the government to amend the law in England to compel the display of food hygiene ratings on the frontage of eating establishments and to increase the resources available for the employment of additional food inspectors to enable a more frequent programme of inspections to be carried and enable more enforcement and follow-up work. I expect this in the same tray as Trading Standards.

Another point of concern with regard to food establishments is the increasing trend for meals to be ordered on-line for delivery to the customer’s home. I haven’t used any of these services myself but it seems to me that without stricter controls there are risks in buying food this way unless details of the preparation and cooking premises and its food hygiene rating are given on the website. Otherwise, how is the customer to know where and to what standard their dinner is cooked? Is it possible that unregistered food handling premises and uncertificated personnel are being used? In most cases all that purchasers have to go on is a website and a phone line, neither of which might be traceable in connexion with the food.

I used to think that it was a good idea for companies to put food hygiene ratings on their websites until I discovered an Indian restaurant that showed a higher rating than the correct one. A better solution is to provide a link to the Food Standards Agency’s website, which will always have the rating for the most recent inspection.

Thanks for that, Alfa. I had no idea, just a vague suspicion.

The Guardian article included a statement from Deliveroo that their dark kitchens were inspected by the FSA. They are either ignorant or lying. The local district council carries out food hygiene inspections, not the Food Standards Agency.

I agree with Wavechange’s point that food outlet websites should link to the official premises ratings accessible via the FSA website. It would be even better if every local district council published the full inspection reports on their websites as Norwich City Council does.

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duncan, your post prompted me to come up with the solution to the Brexit problem and the NI/Ireland customs and border.

The majority (56%) of those who voted in NI want to remain. Therefore make Ireland one country (thus remaining in the EU). As it is sparsely populated (80 people per km²) compared to the rest of the UK ( 273/km²) I then suggest those from England, Scotland and Wales who wish to remain in the EU move to the New Ireland. That would more than equalise population densities and create two far more harmonious nations.

Is it too late for Boris to raise this? He could still provide a bridge to make visiting family and friends easier. From near Southend in Kintyre to Torr in NI; UK then only around 20km from the EU (EU 12.5 miles from the UK). Only half the length of the new China-HK bridge.

Good to see I’m not the only one who has been pondering that option… 😉

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Well, it was a tongue in cheek post.

Religion in NI seems to be pretty well equally split. However, I wonder how many “ordinary” people would really bother now the influence of churches on everyday lives seems to be declining? I suspect most of the divide is generated by activists. A pity they are allowed to impose their partisan views.

Phil says:
24 October 2018

True but, as this was all true long before the EU and its predecessors, existed how is it relevant to a discussion about leaving the EU? Remainers are like those creatures that stick all sorts of detritus on themselves in an attempt to camouflage their presence. Leaving the EU is really simple unless of course you are a remainer.

I recall the story of a bloke asking another bloke in NI what religion he was.

Actually, I’m an atheist, he said.

But then he was asked: Ah, but are you a protestant atheist or a catholic atheist?

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Duncan, I beg to disagree. All of my friends from over there have all had great senses of humour and known how to get on and enjoy life.