The Treasury has warned that EU plans to relax border controls on alcohol sales would drive every off-licence in Britain out of business.
Under the proposals, EU citizens could buy unlimited quantities across EU member state borders or online, as long as they organised their own shipping.
A Treasury spokesman said the plans “made no sense” and would cripple the UK economy.
She said: “It would drive every off-licence in Britain out of business and rob billions of taxation revenue from our schools, hospitals and other public services. These proposals make no sense.”
Association of Convenience
Stores public affairs and commercial manager James Lowman said the proposals should be seen as part of a wider drive by the EU to harmonise tax regimes across member states. He said the UK, as a big taxer, was under pressure to lower its duty rates.
“The EU believes that tax should not restrict movement and trade.”
The ACS wanted the UK Treasury to lower UK duty rates, which were “eating away at members’ profitability”, but the EU was taking the wrong approach to bringing members into line, he said. The ACS believed that tax regimes should be harmonised before border controls were relaxed.
The plans will be voted on in the European Council of Ministers later this month.
The UK has the right to veto the proposals or propose amendments.
The final proposals have to be agreed on unanimously by all member states before they come into effect in any country.
Meanwhile, the ACS welcomed government restrictions on tobacco imports from new EU members as “common sense”.
At the moment, eight of the 10 new member states which join the EU on May 1 have duty rates on tobacco that are lower than the EU minimum.
Therefore the existing limits of 200 cigarettes have been kept in place for imports from those eight countries. Other tobacco products purchased in some of the eight countries will also be covered by the limits.
The UK personal indicative allowance of 3,200 cigarettes will apply for imports from new members Malta and Cyprus.
The restrictions will be reviewed in 12 months’ time, said Customs and Excise.
Anne Bruce