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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Stuart Peskett

The Government must cut wine and spirit duty levels to reduce the number of Calais day-trippers and boost the UK industry, the Wine & Spirit Association (WSA) has warned. Speaking at a LIWSF briefing entitled Calais vs the UK market: current situation and perspectives', WSA director Quentin Rappoport said he wanted to see taxes reduced sooner or later'. At present, cross-border shopping (XBS) makes up 15% of the total UK still-wine market volume-share, and last year more than 23 million people crossed the Channel via Calais. Rappoport said that there were a number of problems with XBS, such as draining' sales from the UK to Calais and driving down prices in the UK, and that the Government is losing revenue as a result. He said: Sooner or later, I think that UK taxes must come down, but the longer the delay, the greater the damage to the trade. XBS is serious. It's harmful to the country. It is driven by extraordinary tax levels in this country, and I believe that taxes will have to harmonise.' Other speakers at the briefing included Nico Thiriot of Sainsbury's Calais, who bemoaned the slight decline in XBS, which he attributed in part to the French government's decision to hike duty on cigarettes, and Barbara Strm of Systembolaget, the government-owned Swedish monopoly. She likened Sweden's situation to the UK's, in that both suffered from high duty rates while their neighbouring countries enjoyed far lower levels. See next week's edition of Harpers for an in-depth look at the briefing, which was organised by wine data consultation firm Skalli & Rein.