In Depth

Will Brexit herald the return of the duty-free booze cruise?

No-deal withdrawal could see Brits bringing back bargain booze from abroad

Calais is seeking authorisation to turn the city into a duty-free zone in a bid to lure British shoppers following Brexit.

The UK’s departure from the EU could herald a new era of the booze cruise, as duty-free shopping returns to ferries between France and Britain for the first time in more than two decades.

And Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart wants to ensure day-trippers from the UK can buy their alcohol and tobacco in the French port city as well as at sea, The Times reports.

A spokesperson for Calais City Council said: “The idea is to extend the perimeter of the duty-free zone beyond the ferry port and the Eurotunnel terminal to the whole town.

“The day duty-free ended, Calais’ shops were badly affected.”

What are the current rules on duty free?

Up until 1999, Britons were allowed to bring home up to 200 cigarettes, two litres of wine, one litre of spirits, 60cl of perfume, 25cl of eau de toilette and other goods worth £75.

However, the EU then ended duty-free shopping between member states as part of a push towards a fully integrated single market.

How will duty-free rules change after Brexit?

The current system will stay in place for the duration of the transition period, which runs until 31 December 2020.

What happens to duty rules after that deadline is subject to the outcome of trade discussions during the Brexit negotiations.

If no deal is reached between the EU and UK, duty-free shopping could make a comeback.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said last year that the Government favoured the reintroduction of duty-free purchases for Brits travelling to the EU with immediate effect if the UK leaves without an agreement in place.

For that to happen, the UK would have to become a “third country” - along the lines of the Australia- or Canada-style agreement being discussed by Boris Johnson.

“As we prepare to leave the EU, I’m pleased to be able to back British travellers,” Javid said in September. “We want people to enjoy their hard-earned holidays, and this decision will help holidaymakers’ cash go that little bit further.”

The chancellor claims the return of duty-free shopping could save British tourists more than £12 on two crates of beer bought on the Continent, for example.

If the UK does end up trading with the EU on no-deal terms, Britons returning from the EU would have two options when it comes to buying alcohol and cigarettes, according to The Independent.

People travelling back from the bloc would still be able to bring back unlimited amounts provided they pay duty in foreign shops. Or they could buy limited amounts at duty-free shops on ferries or in EU countries.

Passengers departing the UK could benefit from duty-free prices too. The Treasury estimates that a bottle of wine purchased at Heathrow duty-free could be up to £2.23 cheaper. 

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