07 SEP 2017

Duty free return would boost Dover and Deal

The return of duty free sales on travel to and from the European Union would deliver a real boost for Dover and Deal. It would benefit the ferry industry, as duty free goods will attract more people to travel. And it will boost visits to our cruise port at the Western Docks. By having one non-EU stopover on a cruise, the entire journey becomes duty and tax free for passengers. The return of duty free would mean towns and regions home to ports or small airports across the whole nation would be better off.

We need to plan ahead for Brexit now – that includes reviving duty free which helps ports like our and regional airports too. This is why I organised a letter to the Chancellor, signed by 40 MPs, calling for duty free to be reinstated for trips to Europe.

Duty free sales between Britain and the EU were axed in 1999. Since then duty free has only applied on trips outside Europe. We need to bring these duty free sales back – to boost regional economies like Dover and Deal. It's also important that when duty free returns, people should also be able to continue to bring in personal imports from the EU like they can now.

We only need to make minor tweaks to current laws. Yet these changes need to be made in good time in order to give operators time to be ready on day one of Brexit. Preparations could take up to nine months for our ferry firms.

It is vital that we prepare now for every eventuality of Brexit – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline. That's why I've been working with industry experts and business leaders on the action we can take. And the Government has recently published papers on how we can tackle the Brexit customs challenge. Forward-thinking politicians like Xavier Bertrand, who heads up the Calais region, have welcomed our work so far.

Yet it's clear from the behaviour of Brussels that no deal is a real possibility. The clock is ticking and the EU need to start negotiating seriously. That may not happen in time – which is why we need to be ready on day one, deal or no deal.

Ironically, the EU will be the big loser from no deal. For tariffs would hit Europe's exports to us twice as hard as they would hit our exports to them. No free-trade deal would mean Europe's exports to us would be hit for £13.2billion of tariffs. Meanwhile, tariffs on our exports to Europe would be just £6.5billion. Hopefully the economic realities will begin to focus minds in the EU and more progress can be made.

Yet we must be prepared for no deal. That means taking action now to be ready on day one. Getting ready for the return of duty free is part of that. And ensuring we are prepared for the customs challenges ahead at the Dover frontline.

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Charlie Elphicke

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