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End of tax-free shopping 'will cost Northern Ireland airport jobs'


DUP MP Jim Shannon

DUP MP Jim Shannon

DUP MP Jim Shannon

Hundreds of jobs at Belfast City Airport are at risk because of the decision to axe tax-free shopping for passengers at airports, it's been claimed.

The UK Travel Retail Forum claimed the airport would lose out on revenue it normally makes from passengers spending money on discounted clothes, cosmetics and confectionery before they board their flights.

That could mean the loss of £10m to the airport - ultimately threatening hundreds of jobs supported by the airport's activities.

The decision by the Chancellor to abolish tax-free shopping in airports from January was jeopardising a total of 19,400 jobs across the UK, the UK TRF said.

Airports have been in crisis after suffering a huge drop in passenger numbers compared to last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

MPs, including DUP Strangford representative Jim Shannon, have said they are now raising the alarm to the Treasury over the impact of the Chancellor's decision, announced in September.

According to a York Aviation economic impact assessment of the decision, the loss of the VAT airside concession will cost the UK economy £2.1bn in GDP.

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The forum also warned that it will give EU member airports an advantage over their UK counterparts, and could force smaller UK airports who rely on passenger retail out of operation altogether.

Mr Shannon said: "On behalf of Northern Ireland and my constituents I am deeply concerned to learn of these plans.

"Airports in Northern Ireland have been severely impacted by Covid-19 and the collapse of FlyBe, and this is yet another kick in the teeth to a critical part of our national infrastructure.

"Given our proximity to the Republic of Ireland, any policy which reduces competitiveness within Europe will have a disproportionate impact in terms of jobs and connectivity compared to the rest of the UK. I urge this Government to reconsider and work with industry to find a solution".

Cameron Gray, who represents UK TRF members, said: "This decision puts the United Kingdom out of step with travel retail systems around the world, completely disincentivises tourists to visit the UK and British passengers making purchases as they go on vacation abroad, and puts UK airports and travel retail at a substantial disadvantage against their European counterparts."