Friday 18 October 2019

Cross-border ferry ‘will become booze cruise in event of no-deal Brexit’

Fianna Fail’s Declan Breathnach claimed that differentials in VAT and taxes on commodities will drive people to buy cheaper alcohol across the border.

By Cate McCurry, PA

A passenger ferry which crosses the Irish border every day will become a “booze cruise” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a committee has heard.

Fianna Fail’s Declan Breathnach claimed that differentials in VAT and taxes on commodities will drive people to buy cheaper alcohol across the border.

Speaking at the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, Mr Breathnach told Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe that there was need for “some form of fiscal alignment”.

His comments come after Mr Donohoe last week said that duty free shopping for people travelling from Ireland to the UK would return if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.

If you take for example, the Carlingford Lough Ferry, the reality is that it's going to become a booze cruise in relation to the differentials in VAT and taxes in relation to the commodities that will ultimately drive people not just to buy those items, but also their weekly shopping Declan Breathnach, Fianna Fail

The British government also said that UK citizens can avail of duty free shopping when travelling to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Breathnach said that people living along the border will certainly welcome the opportunity to go on the “booze cruises”.

He added “If you take for example, the Carlingford Lough Ferry, which we all know and appreciate, the reality is that it’s going to become a booze cruise in relation to the differentials in VAT and taxes in relation to the commodities that will ultimately drive people not just to buy those items, but also their weekly shopping.

“There’s certainly some form of fiscal alignment (that) needs to be guaranteed.”

Mr Donohoe responded: “In relation to the principle of fiscal alignment between Northern Ireland and Ireland, in the engagement that I had with the new Chancellor of the Exchequer that matter has not featured yet, but I am well aware of the sensitivity of any decision that I make in carbon tax to petrol stations and to local trade in border counties.”

Meanwhile, Labour TD Joan Burton said that a hard border would become a smuggling zone.

“I understand that there are seven gangs or so along the border, some of them have loyalist links, the majority with Republican links,” she added.

“What are you going to do in relation to the smuggling issue?”

While Mr Donohoe did not go into any detail, he said he was “well aware” of the level of risk in relation to smuggling.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty queried the number of customs checks the government is considering and the cost of employing personnel.

He added: “I’m asking this question mindful of the fact that I completely disagree with the idea of custom checks and this is something that needs to be resisted by government.

“This undermines the Good Friday Agreement and there are serious consequences that arise from all of that, but I’m focusing on a budgetary point of view.”

Mr Donohoe said he has not made any decisions in relation to the number of checkpoints and hiring personnel.

He added: “The reason why I have not is because work and engagement with the (European) Commission in this area is still ongoing and we are deeply mindful of the sensitivity and deeply aware of the need to be very careful in this area.

“I absolutely understand all of the sensitivity that exists in relation to the potential location of checks anywhere.

“This is why the backstop is so important.

“This is the very reason why we are standing by the need for the backstop and standing over the principle of regulatory alignment because the way in which we can ensure that all of our commitments to the Good Friday Agreement, to the need for frictionless trade on the island of Ireland, and our membership of the single market, the way in which all of those can be reconciled is through the principle of regulatory alignment as an insurance policy.”

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