Jackson in call for duty free inquiry

THE JUNIOR transport minister, Glenda Jackson, yesterday backed calls for a new study into the impact of abolishing duty free shopping throughout the European Union.

She joined a majority of EU ministers meeting in Brussels in demanding a detailed investigation into the possible job and financial losses if the planned ban comes into force as agreed in July next year.

Now Ms Jackson's boss, Gavin Strang - president in office of EU transport ministers during Britain's presidency of the EU - must formally ask Chancellor Gordon Brown to put the demand to Europe's finance ministers.

Despite EU Commission insistence that the subject of duty free is closed, Ireland succeeded in forcing the issue on to today's agenda - and won surprise backing from the UK, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany, Finland, Portugal and Spain.

All agreed that Eurocrats should assess the implications before duty free sales become a thing of the past.

The strength of support runs counter to the Chancellor's claim that there is no mood to revise the duty free decision in Europe.

Ireland's minister for public enterprise, Mary O'Rourke, was delighted by the response.

She said with concern growing about an estimated loss of 145,000 jobs in the duty free industry, it was important to reopen the debate.

EU finance ministers originally approved the end of duty free on the grounds that in a single European market with no trade borders the perk for travellers moving between EU member states had become an anomaly.

But as the agreed date for an end to duty free sales looms, consumer groups have begun a major campaign to reverse the decision.