Duty free will be “automatically” introduced on cross-channel ferries if Britain exits the customs union as part of Brexit, according to the British Chamber of Shipping.
Ministers “will carefully consider” reintroducing duty free shopping on cross-channel routes if Britain leaves the EU customs union as part of Brexit negotiations, The Telegraph reported.
This would put an end to rules abolishing duty free for travel between European Union countries.
The Chamber is hoping the UK will return to the system of the 1990s when ferries were able to sell alcohol and cigarettes on board which were not liable for excise duty.
The so-called “intra-EU duty free” system was worth £391 million a year to the ferry industry.
The allowances were available at airports and ferries on international routes from the UK until 1999 when duty free was abolished for travel between EU countries.
Since then they have only been able to take advantage of “tax-free” shopping, which is free of VAT.
Guy Platten, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, which represents ferry operators, told the newspaper that the return of duty free would be a “win-win” for travellers and ferry companies.
He said: “The return of duty free to ferries could be a game-changer for the UK ferry sector and deliver a win-win for both business and customer alike.
“The UK was an island nation before the referendum vote, and we are an island nation today.
“Nearly 40 million people a year travel on ferries to and from the UK and it continues to be a convenient, safe and cost-effective way of travelling.
“But over the years a number of regulations and changes have damaged the industry’s competitiveness, not least the removal of duty free.
“Leaving the European Union may well give us the opportunity to get that back.
“The government has said Britain is open for business, and that leaving the EU does not mean cutting ourselves off from the world.
“Promoting travel and tourism should be at the heart of its strategy, and restoring duty free would send out a strong and welcome message.”
An Airport Operators Association spokesman confirmed airports are in talks about bringing back duty free.
He said : “The AOA has been identifying both the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.
“Duty free may be one of those opportunities but we are at a very early stage of the negotiations.
“We will be working with government to get the best deal for our passengers, from securing their flights to enhancing their airport experience.”
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