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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Doubt over minimum price plan for alcohol

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

COALITION plans to introduce minimum alcohol pricing have been thrown into doubt by the EU objecting to similar moves by the Scottish government.

Health Minister James Reilly had hoped to bring in minimum pricing at the same time as the North, in an all-Ireland move intended to tackle binge-drinking. But the European Commission (EC) has objected to a similar move by the Scottish government, saying it is not compatible with EU market rules.

Dr Reilly is due to bring his own proposals to Government early next year.

Objecting to the Scottish proposals, the EC said minimum pricing could "create obstacles to the free movement of goods within the internal market".

It also said minimum pricing would restrict imports of foreign alcohol, calling it a "disproportionate response".

The Department of Health says it is following the Scottish situation "very closely".

Scotland is hoping to set a minimum price of around 60c for a unit of alcohol, but has also run up against objections from trade ministers from EU member states who fear it would damage their alcohol industries.

The EU moves have led alcohol industry sources to claim similar Irish proposals are doomed.

"The commission's basic point is that minimum pricing is illegal under European law," one source said.

"Countries cannot and do not wilfully ignore detailed opinions like this."

Irish Independent

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