“Proposals to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing will do little to tackle alcohol misuse, but will harm an industry that employs over 200,000 people across the drinks and hospitality sectors and contributes to local economies across the country,” said ABFI Director Patricia Callan, “Irish consumers already pay the second-highest amount of tax on alcohol in the EU including the highest excise on wine and the second-highest excise on beer and spirits in the EU, so clearly price is not the silver bullet to tackling alcohol misuse.
“Minimum Unit Pricing would however intensify cross-border shopping, jeopardising border economies. Sterling has depreciated significantly since the Brexit and experience confirms that consumers are willing to react in response to differences in cross-border prices. If MUP is implemented in the Republic but not in the North then there will be a permanent shift in price levels which will be to the detriment of the retail trade, consumers and the Exchequer in the Republic.
“The Seanad Brexit report, released in July, identifies Brexit as one of the largest competitiveness shocks that the Irish agri-food industry has faced. The combination of Brexit and the unintended economic consequences of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will only serve to exacerbate pressure on the sector. Now is not the time to impose ineffective regulation and additional costs on drinks companies. For Irish companies and regions to continue trading with the UK the Irish cost base must be competitive.
“We have long called for the reintroduction of the ban on below-cost selling in order to address the issue of cheap alcohol. It was the repeal of the Groceries Order in 2006 against the advice of the drinks industry which directly led to the use of alcohol as a loss-leader by large retailers.”