The Irish Duty Free Alliance (IDFA) has called on the Irish government to reassess its position following an amendment that would halt the return of duty free sales at airports in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
This title previously reported a proposed move by the government to table the amendment –drawing a concerned response from the Alliance – as part of the Brexit Omnibus Bill.
As it stands, the ‘Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019’ would stop duty free sales to UK-bound passengers at Irish airports, but not to those travelling on airlines or ferries.
The IDFA has branded the move ‘out of step’ with Europe, which made clear in November that a restoration of duty free sales for UK-bound passengers should occur in the event of a hard Brexit.
“The Irish Duty Free Alliance’s position is that UK-bound duty free sales, taking place at airports and onboard vessels, must be allowed in the event of a hard Brexit, as the UK will become a third country and EU Legislation is clear in that regard,” stated IDFA Chairman Frank O’Connell.
“We are calling for Government to reconsider its position in respect of this amendment and to assist us in mitigating against the challenges of Brexit. It is also worth remembering that as an island economy, connectivity is absolutely crucial and therefore the wellbeing of our maritime and aviation links must be preserved at all costs.
“A hard Brexit scenario will be hugely detrimental to IDFA members and will require substantial investment to prepare for and mitigate against risks. Duty free shopping for UK passengers represents perhaps the only silver lining in what is otherwise a very challenging outlook for our members, particularly regional airports who have a high proportion of UK routes.
“We commissioned an economic report by DCU’s Professor Tony Foley, which clearly showed that the return of duty free for passengers to the UK could have an overall positive impact on the Irish economy in the region of an additional €45 million in economic activity, and would generate 450 jobs, directly and indirectly.
“Furthermore, if sales are simply transferred from airports to airlines or the ferries, which is what will happen if this amendment passes without change or without reciprocal action by the UK, this will drain Irish airports of much needed retail revenues at a time when they need it most.”
The IDFA has also questioned whether such an amendment is compatible with EU legislation, which as alluded to above, clearly lays out member states’ commitments on duty free allowances for travellers from the EU to third countries.
The UK is due to depart the European Union on 29 March with a number of possible scenarios at play, including a no deal, a second referendum, agreement on PM Theresa May’s deal (with possible concessions), or a delay to the entire process. A further ‘meaningful vote’ on the deal is due to occur on Tuesday 12 March.