No-deal Brexit may see return of Britain’s ‘booze cruise’

Tax free imports of limited quantities of alcohol to be ‘reintroduced’ if no-deal Brexit goes ahead, gov’t announces.

Calais road sign - reuters
The cross-channel ferry trip was a British tradition in the decades before the turn of the millennium [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

Economists, healthcare administrators, academics, legal analysts and many others have warned that the United Kingdom leaving the European Union – the world’s largest trading bloc – without a deal would be disastrous for the island nation.

Warnings include fears that a no-deal Brexit could even lead to shortages of medicines and foodstuffs.

However, UK officials are suggesting that such a move could see the return of one particular 20th-century British institution: the “booze cruise”.

In 1999, the EU abolished duty-free shopping between member nations, saying it was incompatible with the single market.

Its return could herald a boom in the “booze cruises” that were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s, when thirsty and thrifty Brits would take a day-trip ferry to a discount hypermarket in a northern French port town.

They would return with a carload of tax-free alcoholic drinks to stock up their home cellars.

UK residents returning home from EU countries will no longer have to pay taxes on alcohol or tobacco products bought in continental Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government announced on Tuesday.

No-deal Brexit could cause UK food, fuel and medicine shortages

The British government will also forego taxes on similar products travelling in the opposite direction in an attempt to give the tourism sector a boost, should the country leave the EU without a deal, finance minister Sajid Javid announced.

Liquid relief from Brexit

The government estimates that a bottle of wine purchased in an airport duty-free shop on the way to the EU after Brexit could be up to 2.23 pounds ($2.70) cheaper.

At the point of leaving the EU, travellers to Britain would still be able to bring home unlimited alcohol and cigarettes if they paid duty on it in the country of origin, as is the case currently.

But they would also have the option of buying limited amounts of duty-free alcohol and cigarettes at duty-free shops in Europe, said the government.

“We want people to enjoy their hard-earned holidays and this decision will help holidaymakers’ cash go that little bit further,” said Javid.

The move was considered by former prime minister Theresa May when it was estimated that it would cost the Treasury between 150 million pounds ($185.3m) to 200 million pounds ($247m) a year.

Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke said that the move would help coastal towns such as Dover, which he represents and which had some of the highest proportions of Brexit votes in the country in the 2016 referendum.

“This will deliver a big boost for tourism – helping our coastal communities and ferry industry after Brexit,” he told British daily The Sun.

Duty-free shopping is already permitted for travellers going to non-EU countries. But according to risk analysts at JP Morgan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is more likely to resign than Britain is to face a no-deal Brexit.

On Tuesday, private banking group Julius Baer cut its estimate of the probability of a no-deal EU crash out on October 31 to just 10 percent. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies