Britons rush to France again for booze trips

Drinks shops in Calais are seeing a return to days of the booze-cruise as Britons rush to stock up on cheaper French alcohol ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit.

27 March 2019
By Connexion journalist

Ferry booking website Direct Ferries reported a 25% rise in day trippers in Febru­ary and the start of March.

Staff in the huge Calais Wine and Majestic warehouses say they have been rushed off their feet by the surge in demand.

Jean-Paul Mulot, permanent representative to the UK of the Hauts-de-France region, said: “If I was British, I would be stocking up too.

“Nothing is certain but it very much looks as though if there is a no-deal Brexit, British travellers will be limited to four litres of still wine when they cross the border.”

John Keefe, of Getlink (formerly Eurotunnel), said: “Anec­dotally, I have heard that some of the big retailers in the Calais area have been running customer promotions saying ‘travel and buy while you can’.”

Higher taxes on alcoholic drinks in the UK mean that it is cheaper to buy wine and spirits in France than in the UK.

Under the EU’s single market rules, residents of EU countries who pay tax in one country do not pay any more tax on alcohol when they return home, as long as they do not sell it on.

Sales in Calais were hit when the pound fell after Brexit, but they have since recovered, helped by the UK increasing tax on alcohol and tobacco.

The trade in alcohol was one of the matters which was to be settled during the transition period under the deal between the EU and UK government.

However, in the case of a no-deal, there will be no transition period and it is likely that strict limits on the amount of alcohol which can be imported into the UK by individuals will come into force.

France’s cognac exporters and Scotland’s whisky exporters have taken special measures, including building up stocks.

Mr Keefe said they had not seen a big Brexit effect on Eurotunnel passenger numbers but “the freight side has been a lot heavier in recent months due to UK firms pre-ordering goods from the Continent so they are stocked up before Brexit Day.

“They want buffer supplies in case of congestion afterwards.”

Mr Keefe added:  “We’ve been preparing for the worst-case scenario for the last two years so we’re as ready as we can be.

“The tunnel is here to move people quickly and in large numbers and the authorities have a responsibility to ensure the controls they apply are in line with the traffic flows.

“So we are confident that, with all the work that’s been done, traffic will continue to flow smoothly through the tunnel.”

During March – and ongoing as Connexion went to press – the Gare du Nord in Paris was experiencing long delays to Eurostar trains.

This was linked to protest action by customs officers at the Channel ports, which also caused jams on the roads.

They have been operating a work-to-rule policy to show the problems that a no-deal Brexit, with extra checking requirements, would cause.

The customs officers say the French government has not spent enough on preparations.

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