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Cologne Summit: Holiday prices rise as duty-free ends

THOUSANDS OF jobs in Britain could be at risk after moves by several countries at the EU Cologne summit failed to halt the scrapping of duty-free sales.

Air and ferry passengers are likely to face increased fares once the duty-free abolition goes through on 30 June. Tony Blair joined other European leaders in trying to win a reprieve for the industry. But Denmark and the Netherlands blocked the rescue attempt. Abolition will affect airlines, airports, ferry ports and the drinks industry. Ferries and airlines are likely to raise fares and the price of a package holiday for a family of four could go up by pounds 25. Duty-free sales on travel to non-EU countries will remain.

At yesterday's summit Mr Blair said: "I am afraid the decision taken under the previous government in 1991 requires unanimity to change. We have a very mighty majority but we needed unanimity."

Yesterday the UK Duty Free Confederation said that it was "outrageous that one small single member-state [Denmark] can obstruct the will of the rest of Europe and cause the loss of tens of thousands of jobs".

The worst-hit area of Britain is likely to be Kent, where as many as 9,000 direct and indirect jobs could be lost. The County Council leader, Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, and Roger Gale, Tory MP for Thanet North, spoke of "a serious blow" to the county. Mr Gale said abolition had hit the prospect of new ferry routes.