Magazine article The Spectator

Globophobia

Magazine article The Spectator

Globophobia

Article excerpt

Gordon Brown does not usually receive support from this column but he deserves some congratulation on one initiative. He has written to the European Commission to request that it lifts the threshold above which duty becomes payable on goods brought into the EU for personal use. For the past 10 years it has been frozen at 170 euros (about £145).

While the EU has been keen to encourage cross-border shopping within the EU, it does everything it can to discourage us from shopping outside the EU. Should you buy a £200 fur coat in New York, you are liable to pay, on your arrival at Heathrow, VAT of 17.5 per cent plus additional duty of 12 per cent - in addition to any sales taxes you have paid in America. Should you omit to declare the goods and are caught by customs, you are liable to pay double. The UK has no discretion in duty rates; they are imposed by the European Commission.

The perversity of the rules, one suspects, is designed to catch people out. …

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