Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Vat hike will only drive southern shoppers to drink

Hard-pressed retailers are hoping that the Republic's 2% Vat hike could herald a resurgence of cross-border shopping, but the margins are thin.

The catch is that the southern Vat rise is being accompanied by a bigger increase in fuel prices, making it less attractive for southerners to drive up here in the first place.

Last Christmas, a TV3 survey showed that, even then, it wasn't worth filling your tank to travel from Dublin to do your Christmas shopping in Newry.

Still, people did it for the sake of a day out and cheaper booze was the big draw.

Our binge-drinking culture is among the worst in Europe.

But price can't be the only driver because alcohol is already more expensive here than in most other European countries, except Sweden and the Irish Republic, both of which have our problem. That may be why, in spite of a long-standing commitment, ministers haven't actually imposed a minimum price on alcohol.

Edwin Poots, the health minister, told the Scottish Executive that he was "carefully examining the impact" and monitoring the situation in Scotland, where the SNP is hoping to introduce a Bill which would put £3 on the price of a bottle of vodka.

That sort of rise, coupled with Sammy Wilson's tax on the big supermarkets, risks destroying the main incentive for southerners to shop here.

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