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Irish people travelling to UK after no-deal Brexit will be able to buy duty free tobacco and alcohol

The EU abolished duty-free shopping between member nations in 1999.

Duty-free shop.
Duty-free shop.
Image: Shutterstock/Sorbis

Updated Tue 11:01 AM

FINANCE MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe has this morning confirmed that Irish people will be able to shop duty-free if heading to the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In a statement, Donohoe said that legislation had been passed earlier this year relating to Ireland’s position should the UK leave with no deal.

British Chancellor Sajid Javid’s announcement today that UK citizens returning from European Union countries will no longer have to pay taxes on alcohol and tobacco products means Ireland’s position has changed. 

Donohoe’s statement read: “As the UK has today decided to apply an unrestricted Duty-Free scheme in the event that the country leaves the EU with no deal, in line with the reciprocal policy, Ireland would not in this eventuality commence the relevant legislative measure and European Union rules in relation to passenger travel from ports and airports between the EU and third countries would therefore apply from 31 October. 

“In effect this would mean that excise and VAT free sales on purchases of tobacco and alcohol made at duty-free shops, subject to quantitative purchase limits, would therefore operate between Ireland and the UK.” 

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.

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

The government estimates that a bottle of wine purchased in an airport duty-free on the way to the EU after Brexit could be up to £2.23 (€2.50) cheaper.

At the point of leaving the EU, travellers to the UK would still be able to bring home unlimited alcohol and cigarettes if they pay 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 previous prime minister Theresa May, when it was estimated that it would cost the Treasury between £150-£200 million (€168-€224 million) a year.

Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke said that the move would help coastal towns such as Dover, which he represents.

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

Coastal communities such as Dover had some of the highest proportions of Brexit votes in the country in the 2016 referendum.

Duty-free shopping is already permitted for travellers going to non-EU countries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal, but is currently deadlocked with MPs who have passed a law that could force him to extend the current Brexit deadline.

With reporting by Garreth MacNamee

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