Will Brexit mean caps on taking alcohol from France to UK?

The famed ‘booze cruise’ that sees British people load up on cheap alcohol in France will no longer be possible to the same extent

15 December 2020
By Connexion journalist

Reader question: I have a holiday home in France and usually on my way back to the UK I stock up on alcohol, cigarettes and other goods that are cheaper this side of the pond. Will that still be possible once Brexit kicks in on January 1?

Short answer: Yes, but with limits

The Brexit transition period will end on December 31, meaning the UK’s rights as an EU member will end. 

France has typically had lower alcohol prices than the UK due to a £2.05-per-bottle duty in the UK, which led to a trend of British shoppers getting cheap ferries or Eurotunnel tickets to France to stock up.

Previously, there were no limits on the amount of alcohol British people could take back to the UK from other EU states for personal use. That will change after this year. 

The UK government website states that the following limits will apply on alcohol products:

  • Maximum of 42 litres of beer
  • Maximum of 18 litres of still wine
  • Maximum of 4 litres of sparkling wine, fortified wine or any alcoholic beverage less than 22% ABV

The UK government states that the beer allowance of 42 litres will equate to three crates of 568ml (pint) cans. If passengers prefer to buy 330ml bottles of beer, this would equate to five crates. 

The following limits will also apply to tobacco products:

  • A maximum of 200 cigarettes Or
  • 100 cigarillos Or
  • 50 cigars Or
  • 250g tobacco Or
  • 200 sticks for tobacco for heating Or
  • Any proportional combination of the above

All other goods will be capped to a maximum of £390 or £270 if travelling by private plane or boat. 

If you exceed these limits, you will have to pay UK duties on everything you have bought. 

UK to France

UK excise duty will no longer apply on alcohol and tobacco bought when leaving the UK. This means that, for example, any alcohol bought duty-free on the way to an EU country will be cheaper than it is now. 

The UK government website states that it could therefore be:

  • £2.23 cheaper for a 75cl bottle of wine
  • £2.86 cheaper for a 75cl bottle of Champagne or Prosecco.
  • £2.28 cheaper for six 50cl cans of 4% ABV beer
  • £11.50 cheaper for a 1-litre bottle of 40% ABV spirit

British people entering France from January 1, 2021 will be subject to limitations on how much alcohol they can carry with them. 

They will be allowed no more than:

  • 16 litres of beer
  • Four litres of wine
  • One litre of alcohol of ABV greater than 22%
  • Two litres of alcohol of ABV lower than 22%

Read more:

Brexit impact on French wine

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