UK government says no-deal Brexit will see return of duty-free alcohol

Duty-free shopping with EU countries could return in the case of a no-deal Brexit, but the Wine and Spirit Trade Association claims all this announcement does is highlight the UK’s ‘excessive’ duty levels...

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has promised to bring back duty-free shopping with EU countries if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

Travellers to the EU from the UK would not have to pay excise duty on alcohol in a duty-free shop and would be entitled to bring back limited quantities of alcohol from duty-free shops in Europe.

A statement from the Exchequer’s office claims that a bottle of wine purchased duty free at Heathrow Airport on the way to the EU could be up to £2.23 cheaper.

It goes on to add that people travelling back from the EU will still be able to bring back unlimited amounts of alcohol for their own use, if they pay duty in Europe, as is currently the case.

‘As we prepare to leave the EU, I’m pleased to be able to back British travellers. We want people to enjoy their hard-earned holidays and this decision will help holidaymakers’ cash go that little bit further,’ said Javid.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), was quick to use the announcement to highlight the UK’s ‘excessive’ duty levels.

‘The Chancellor’s announcement to reinstate duty free for travellers moving between the UK and the EU is welcome,’ said Beale. ‘But it is also a distraction from the main issue – the UK’s punitively high rates of excise duty. Duty Free is attractive to UK consumers wholly thanks to excessive and increasing duty levels.

‘Wine drinkers in Spain and Italy, and 13 other EU countries enjoy duty free purchases without having to leave their shores. The UK alcohol industry is one of the most heavily taxed in Europe, with wine the 3rd highest duty rate – and fastest rising in recent years. And we have the 4th highest duty rate for spirits in the EU.’

Beale went on to call for a duty cut on wine and spirits at the next budget, which the WSTA has been campaigning for.

‘There are much bigger issues which would adversely affect our industry in the event of a no deal Brexit, such as the potential introduction of tariffs on wine. So the Government shouldn’t only tinker with duty free allowances for travellers. No ifs, no buts, the Chancellor should go further to back British business and support cash-strapped consumers by cutting duty on wine and on spirits at the next Budget.’