Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Lessons of the Booze Cruise

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Lessons of the Booze Cruise

Article excerpt

THERE WILL BE many of us - the Chancellor perhaps excepted - who will be cheered at the news that the High Court has upheld the right to bring large quantities of drink and cigarettes from other EU countries into Britain without being unreasonably harrassed by Customs officials. The ruling, however, raises some important issues.

One is that in an open European market, people who buy excise goods (within extremely generous limits) have a perfect right to travel freely with their purchases throughout the EU. However, this ruling is not simply a licence for a free-for-all. It simply restricts the right of Customs officials to impose blanket stop-and-search measures on ferry passengers, and to confiscate the vehicles of third parties. They still are entitled to question travellers whom they have reason to suspect are simply smugglers. Not all the Britons who buy these goods in France or Belgium are doing so for family birthday celebrations. There are a substantial number who buy cigarettes and drink to sell illegally at home. The Treasury has estimated that it loses some pound sterling9 million a day in revenue through smuggling. The Chancellor relies on duty from drink and tobacco: taxes on tobacco alone provided nearly pound sterling8 billion last year. We may regard smuggling as a minor misdemeanour - indeed, as something of a social service - but the truth is that revenue thus lost must be made up for by other disagreeable means, like increased Income Tax. It is, however, worth asking whether so many people would try to smuggle excise goods from abroad - or indeed purchase them legally on the Continent - if duty on drink and tobacco were not so heavily taxed at home. The price difference between such goods here and elsewhere in the EU, always substantial, has grown extremely large under this Government. An alternative market is an inevitable consequence. The High Court rightly recognises that the EU stands for the free movement of goods and people across the continent.

The booze cruisers may not be motivated by such idealism - but they are the practical outward sign of what the Union at its best represents. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.