Right of Reply

The director general of the Scotch Whisky Association responds to our call for the end of duty-free shopping
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The Independent Culture
LAST WEEK common sense overcame macho political posturing when European leaders recognised that their decision, taken seven years ago, to end EU duty-free was gravely damaging in the current economic climate.

The call for a review into the economic impact of abolition offers hope to the 140,000 people whose jobs are at risk - more than 1,000 in the UK.

When the abolition decision was taken, it was anticipated that excise duties in Europe would be harmonised into a single market. However, today we have 15 member states each with its own tax regime, all of which discriminate against Scotch whisky and other spirits.

Duty-free is popular with travellers. It provides a valuable showcase for a wide range of prestige products. Contrary to The Independent's editorial, it is not a subsidy by the non-travelling public, a point reinforced by the Government's assessment that ending duty-free for alcoholic drinks would not increase excise receipts.

The European Commission says the greatest threat to Europe at present is unemployment. Yet they have made no assessment of the impact of abolishing duty-free, in spite of unanimous calls for a review by the European Parliament.

The commission has an alarmingly short timeframe in which to carry out the full and comprehensive study that is required. It is vital that any report be the result of an objective assessment.

Above all, if the commission truly believes that there is no place in a single market for duty-free, then it must not simply remove a popular and valuable trade, increasing social security costs across the EU. It must deliver a genuine single market in which there is no duty discrimination between alcoholic drinks.