Ireland Brexit paper ‘confirms’ alcohol bill as ‘flawed’

4th May, 2017 by Kristiane Sherry

The Irish Government’s paper on its Brexit position “confirms” the “deeply flawed nature” of the proposed Public Health (Alcohol) Bill (PHAB), the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has said.

the Irish government’s Brexit paper appears to back the view that the PHAB will “exacerbate” pressures on the country’s drinks industry

Released on 2 May, the Irish government’s paper, which details its stance on Brexit negotiations, appears to back the ABFI view that the introduction of the PHAB will “exacerbate” pressures on the country’s drinks industry.

Published in draft form in December 2015, the PHAB was developed to tackle alcohol misuse and covers the introduction of minimum unit pricing, compulsory nutritional labelling and health warnings on bottles.

Industry stakeholders have said the introduction of the PHAB in light of a hard Brexit will result in a “perfect storm” for the Irish drinks trade.

According to the government’s Brexit paper, the devaluation of sterling resulted in the value of Irish food and drink exports to the UK falling by over €500 million (US$546m) in 2016, costing “many” jobs.

In addition, the currency devaluation will hit the hospitality trade as Ireland faces increased competition from domestic UK locations and cheaper third-country markets.

The paper recommends that no tax or regulatory burdens be introduced, a direct contradiction to the PHAB, which calls for minimum unit pricing along with a raft of restrictions.

“The position paper confirms the deeply flawed nature of the proposals in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill,” said ABFI director, Ross Mac Mathúna.

“Since the Brexit vote last June, the food and drink sector in Ireland has faced enormous challenges in the short term, including the fallout of a devaluation of sterling and a surge in cross border shopping.

“The proposals in the Bill will exacerbate pressure on the drinks and wider hospitality sector, which employs over 200,000 people, generating €4 billion in wages annually.”

He added: “The combination of Brexit and stringent measures around advertising, Ireland-specific labels, minimum unit pricing and structural separation of retail outlets, as laid down in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, will create the perfect storm for the drinks sector; in an already precarious situation, this is not a time for scoring own goals.

“A collective endeavour will be required if the Irish drinks industry and wider agri-food sector is to survive and thrive in the face of Brexit’s considerable challenges. I call on the Government to engage with industry to strike a balance between tackling harmful drinking and preserving jobs and local business.”

in February, The Spirits Business considered how spirits producers on the island of Ireland will be affected when Britain leaves the EU.

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