The Wine and Spirits Association has accused the government of 'harassing' its citizens and demanded it reduce duty on wines and spirits, in the wake of yesterday's High Court ruling against UK customs.

The WSA – which represents the interests of the drinks trade at every level in the UK – argues that the UK’s disproportionately high duty on alcohol is the real cause of the rising levels of cross-border shopping.

It says cutting revenue on wines and spirits would raise revenue for the government by stimulating the industry, and cites Switzerland’s recent duty cut as an example of that beneficial effect.

‘One in six bottles of wine drunk in the UK are bought in France, and with every bottle the government loses revenue, British businesses lose income and British jobs are put at risk,’ WSA director Quentin Rappaport said.

Rappaport stressed the organisation in no way wanted to encourage smuggling, ‘but harassing ordinary shoppers is not the way to stop it.’

In a submission to the Treasury the WSA has called for a 4% reduction in excise duty on alcohol as the first step towards harmonisation with the rest of the EU. Excise on a bottle of wine in the UK is currently £1.16, as against £0.02 in France.

On Wednesday the High Court ruled that UK Customs and Excise was wrong to seize goods and a vehicle, on suspicion of smuggling, belonging to a shopper returning from France.

wsa.org.uk

Written by Adam Lechmere2 August 2002