Unilateral introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol will impact border retailers – RGDATA

Unilateral introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol will impact border retailers – RGDATA

The Government’s proposal to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol in January 2022 will drive trade cross the border as shoppers seek to avail of cut price alcohol in Northern Ireland. The rationale for deferring the introduction of MUP until an all island initiative is introduced remains compelling and the Government has failed to outline any substantial justification for this unilateral measure.

RGDATA, the organisation representing the independent retail grocery sector, said that the introduction of the measure in the Republic of Ireland, without any corresponding initiative in Northern Ireland will push a substantial amount of customers up north to buy cut price alcohol. This would also impact on general shopping patterns and will impact on border retailers in particular.

Tara Buckley, RGDATA Director General said;

“Cheap alcohol in the Republic of Ireland is a direct legacy of the Government’s short sighted decision to remove the ban on the below cost sale of alcohol – it is a problem of the Government’s own making. RGDATA has consistently opposed the cheap sale of alcohol but believes that any national measure needs to be reciprocated in Northern Ireland, otherwise a substantive cross border trade in cheap alcohol will be created.

RGDATA said that Government is mistaken in assuming that the introduction of MUP in Ireland will not impact on border retailers.

“ The Government has indicated that the introduction of MUP in Scotland did not adversely impact on Scottish border retailers. This is not correct- there were some impacts on Scottish border retailers and increases in alcohol sales among retailers in English border. Additionally in England there was already a ban on the below cost sale of alcohol since 2014, so the sale of cheap alcohol in England was already restricted. There was also no currency differential as sterling was the common currency between the England and Scotland.

The position between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is entirely different – there is no ban on the below cost sale of alcohol on either side of the border and there is a significant currency and excise differential cross border. These factors will drive cheap alcohol sales across the border”.

If the Government is intent on bringing in MUP in January 2022, then it must indicate what measures will be introduced to prevent cross border cheap alcohol sales. Otherwise it will merely transferring cheap alcohol purchases cross the border to Northern Ireland, damaging compliant border retailers and failing to deliver the supposed public health benefits underpinning the measure.