After Brexit, British thirst for cheaper French alcohol is hurting Irish exports

The British government is being urged to ban the import of alcohol from France before Christmas as a shortage of bottles threatens to disrupt the nation’s Boxing Day sales.

The shortcoming has been sparked by the Brexit vote and a clampdown on Brits using the EU’s borderless Schengen Agreement to enter other European Union countries in search of cheaper prices.

The loophole allows millions of tourists to visit the continent every year and some are determined to use it despite the high fixed tariffs placed on alcohol by the EU.

The shortage of spirits, including Campari, Piranol and Chivas Regal, could see the annual UK sales of alcohol hit by £200 million next year, according to researchers at securities firm “Nomura.”

Many spirits, including vodka, are exempt from tariffs, but a lack of popular holiday gifts means many bottles of white and red wine that would normally be taken from the Continent have been taken off the shelves instead.

Brexit has also brought new taxes on booze, most of which were a result of EU tariffs.

Brexit has caused knock-on uncertainty for liquor suppliers, because the effective ban on EU visitors makes it harder for UK visitors to acquire it.

In a letter to Damian Green, the Brexit secretary, the head of trade policy at the UK trade association WKF, Jonathan Aybai, said the government should look at measures to try to end the incident.

“We believe that the recent [Immigration] regulations are unlawful as they breach EU freedom of movement rules,” Aybai wrote.

“The EU sets maximum tariffs on a wide range of alcohol and other manufactured products. We have been calling for the Department for Exiting the European Union to review whether the importation of certain brands of alcohol from within the EU is legal after Brexit and to consider robust new sanctions for those who would be involved in a trade operation that breaches this arrangement.”

The failure to catch a shortage has also come after ministers in France have reportedly been flooding the UK with hundreds of millions of euros in subsidies to boost local production.

France accounts for about 45 percent of UK wine imports, which has led to the duty-free trading tradition of other EU countries.

The last week of December has historically been a mad dash in which savers and drinkers hoof it to nearby European Union countries to fill bottles and cask fridges.

The Foreign Office warned last week that supermarkets were finding that stocks of mineral water, spirits and toiletries like soap and perfume were running short, so any restrictions could affect sales.

Read the full story at The Times of London.


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