NI shopkeepers fear impact of smuggling in the wake of Brexit
More than half of the retailers in Northern Ireland are concerned about a rise in criminality and illicit trade following Brexit.
That's according to a survey conducted by Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS).
A total of 215 businesses responded to the survey, most operating in border areas.
It comes after a roundtable discussion was held this week in Dublin to discuss the issues, along with Irish Government members, MLAs, the PSNI and the Garda.
The results showed that of those quizzed, around 55% of retailers in Northern Ireland have recorded a "noticeable increase in smuggling and illicit trade" in recent years, with a further 44% of their counterparts in the Republic saying the same.
RAS spokesperson and small business owner, John McKeown, said: "When a customer doesn't buy their cigarettes in my shop, that means they're not buying their pint of milk, they're not buying their sliced pan.
"This loss of add-on sales has a massive knock-on effect on small businesses".
According to RAS, shop owners on both sides of the border "can no longer compete with the illicit trade of smuggled products. In terms of illicit trade, cigarettes and loose tobacco are by far the most urgent concern for retailers," it said.
The survey also found that just 13% of businesses have "confidence in the ability of authorities to tackle smuggling".
"Smuggling is a constant concern for us as retailers. A packet of cigarettes bought on the street costs the consumer less than half price of what they would pay in a shop," Mr McKeown said.
"A legitimate retailer selling a packet of cigarettes for £9 simply cannot compete with a smuggled pack that costs just £5.
"Both governments need to protect the concerns and livelihoods of legitimate retailers on both sides of the border from the consequences of illicit trade."
The organisation is now calling for a moratorium on "further excise increases until such rises can be proven not to lead to a surge in smuggling as a result of price differentials".
It also wants "increased resources for revenue to enhance their efforts to tackle alcohol, tobacco and solid fuel smuggling" and "legislation to protect legitimate businesses from the illicit trade of alcohol, tobacco and solid fuel".