Ahead of the UK general election on the 12th of December, Drinks Ireland, the all-island representative body for drinks producers, distributors and brand-owners, has called for the winning party to reduce the excise on alcohol sales.

According to Drinks Ireland, which represents the industry in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Northern Irish drinks industry is a major exporter. Over six million cases of Irish whiskey, Irish cream liqueur and gin were produced in Northern Ireland in 2018, over 80% of which was exported to markets other than the UK or Ireland.

It’s also a major investor in the Northern Irish economy and a tourism driver, with attractions like Bushmills Distillery, Echlinville, Rademon Estate and the Boatyard distilleries drawing thousands of visitors every year.

Drinks Ireland has highlighted that the UK has the 4th highest aggregate rate of excise on alcohol products in the EU. This means that the nearly one million cases of NI-produced spirits that were sold in the UK market in 2018 faced a high level of taxation.

It called on UK parties to support reform of the UK alcohol excise system so as to sustain consumer confidence and spending patterns, support the Northern Ireland drinks industry and ensure increasing revenue to the exchequer.

Patricia Callan, Director of Drinks Ireland, said: “The domestic market is hugely important for Northern Irish spirits producers, particularly for small producers like gin distilleries. As such the maintenance of a supportive domestic consumer market in the UK is a key determinant in ensuring the ongoing success of the Northern Irish spirits industry, which has a hugely positive impact on the Northern Irish economy.

“We saw that recent duty freezes in 2017 and 2018 have actually delivered higher revenues to the exchequer.

“We would call on the next Government to reform the excise system with a view of supporting small Northern Irish distilleries.”

In the context of Brexit, Drinks Ireland also called on the next UK Government to seek to avoid a hard, no-deal exit at both the current stage and, if it arises, following a transition period in the case that a new trade agreement is not concluded. It said that frictionless trade and market access including within the UK, between NI and Great Britain, within the island of Ireland and between NI and the rest of the EU was vital. It is seeking zero tariffs on all goods traded between the EU and UK.

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