Are you being 'played', for that return to yesteryear?
Welcome to my latest Creating Ripples Podcast.
Brexit has not disappointed us, has it; except perhaps for some newspaper headlines?
I always say, that the beginning of any new year, brings out the bored journalist or broadcaster, I say bored ,because they get to a point when the normal flow of the news simply gets to much and they need a release from the doldrum world of fact regurgitation!
So this year, it’s started not with the alleged statements from holidaymakers, expressing their disappointment about the fact that they were ‘done’, when they bought that pair of ‘Ray-Bans’ off the local market, or that some think that there are too many Spanish in the hotel they have chosen!
No, this year, we have a fresh perspective, offered by our popular ‘red-tops’ and anyone else who is excited by the prospect, that Duty-Free is set to return.
The golden age is apparently set to return, when you could cheat the tax-man, enjoying that small victory, as you tuck into your in-flight meal!
Many Britons have no clue what this is about, because they have for several decades been passing through the the giant concessions at airports and International Railway Stations, sometimes gaining better bargains than in their local High Street, or not!
The fuss over Duty-Free, has been created by some excited writing, about the comments of some businesses and the Mayor of Calais, who wants to create a new wondrous tax-free zone, just for us Brits.
So convinced are they, they intend to lobby President Macron, so that he can deliver their dreams and stop cross-channel ferry operators from receiving a windfall, following Britains departure from the EU.
It all sounds exciting doesn’t it?
Reading these reports, I was left with the distinct impression that some journalists and perhaps some people on the ground in Calais, have been drinking Unicorn blood!
Well its time for me rain on the parade!
Let me just deal with 2020 first.
Nothing is going to happen; nothing is going to change - there will be no Duty-Free ‘benefits” this year - this is our transition period from the EU and we still have to respect the laws and regulations of the European Union, many of which we helped to create.
What happens after 1 January 2021 is anybody’s guess.
You see, it’s not just about a Free Trade Agreement and listening to the current arguments, such an agreement will not be so comprehensive as to cover all the areas we take for granted.
Just think about this.
All the Treaties that the UK has signed up to, number hundreds of pages; they are supported by an even greater number of Directives, Regulations and Standards.
Think of it this way; have you ever tried to get out of your telephone contract or internet deal? Such contracts are small by comparison to International deals, and you know how difficult that can be!
It is estimated that to just retain the same benefits, in all manner of areas, not just travel, we are going to need something like 2,000 reciprocal agreements, just to stand still; can you see the problem?
Duty-Free is way down on the list of priorities, or it should be!
Now let me turn to the good people of Calais and their dream of world domination in Duty-Free!
So here is the reality.
Calais is in France.
France is a leading member of the European Union.
France, like the other 26 Member States, operate in the Single Market, like we will up to the end of 2020. The Single Market has been created to standardise rules and regulations and to even up tax-regimes, the belief being that it is competition and not tax-breaks that will deliver value for money for Consumers, and indeed we have seen that for the last 45 years!
The likelihood that France will buck the trend and allow a “duty-free” zone in Calais, is just not going to happen - imagine if France did it, then the other 26 would want the same - it would create some chaos in the Single Market; the EU will not allow such a deviation.
If we are going to “benefit from duty-free, it will be because the UK government will introduce it, simply because it is a headline that proves to the British Electorate that the UK has left the Single Market; such an action would be purely symbolic; nothing else!
So how would the new Duty-Free reality work?
The chief beneficiaries would be the ferry companies and their UK-based terminals.
They would be able to sell products Duty-Free, but what happens when you get the other side?
Well without a reciprocal agreement, the European Union could install limits in what British holidaymakers could bring onto mainland Europe with anything in excess of any limits being subject to EU taxation. As Britons exit those countries, the European Union could install an exit duty on what you have bought!
In order to achieve this, there would likely be more checks at ports.
What about coming back to the UK? Would we have greater limits?
I’m not convinced. Currently we have are allowed to bring virtually unlimited quantities of alcohol and cigarettes and so on for personal use.
I think it will prove to be irresistible for the UK government, as they will see Duty-Free and limits, as a means to raise tax revenue.
A UK government might decide to maintain the ‘symbol’ of an unlimited structure, allowing you to benefit from a small personal limit and a reduced tax tariff rate for anything over; as I say, it’s anybody’s guess!
Whilst some sensible voices in Calais express that they are concerned for their businesses, if tighter regimes are applied, this is all a good example of what happens when Single Market rules don’t apply!
Will we see a return of the booze cruise; I don’t think so.
There may be a small number of Britons who yearn for that yesteryear, but the simple fact is that were have all changed.
Back in 1973, our supermarkets did not display the wide choice that we have today.
The way we travel and indeed where we have travelled to has brought back new expectations of what we can buy and consume.
In the same way, the Single Market has delivered on our Consuming expectations.
The simple fact is this: our shopping habits have also changed so why would we travel a couple of hundred miles to visit the continent on a ferry, when we can simply click and go to a variety of destinations or click and have delivered what we desire?
Today’s Citizens are are darned sight more savvy than we used to be and no end of unicorn journalism or political chicanery is going to put our expectations genie back in the bottle!
(This Podcast/Script is for the CreatingRipples Podcast™ - Brexit: The Return of the Booze Cruise? You can listen to Frank's Podcast here)