Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 3 October 2004

UK Customs continue to flout EU Internal Market rules

UK Customs continues to penalise with draconian fines and vehicle seizures those who are exercising their right to import alcohol and tobacco products from other EU countries. The attraction of doing this is that taxes ('duty') on these products is considerably higher in the UK than in most other EU countries, specially France - which is the closest country to the UK and probably the most-visited by Britons for this purpose.

The European Commission will meet UK Customs and Excise officials in Brussels this coming Thursday to hear how the UK plans to address the issue, in a bid to avoid court action being taken by the Commission against the UK, before the European Courts of Justice, the body which oversees observance by member states of the terms of the various EU treaties. Whilst there may be a case for acting to thwart individuals who bring large quantities of goods into the UK in order to sell them on for profit, which is against the rules, there have been too many cases reported of people who were certainly not engaged in such activity suffering puntive fines and vehicles seizures.

As Frits Bolkestein, the European Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union is quoted as saying:

"I recognise and support strongly member states' efforts to fight excise duty fraud - but this must not be at the expense citizens' rights to take full advantage of the Internal Market.

"Cross-border shopping is a fundamental right under EU law and should not be regarded as a form of tax evasion - even if it does give rise to revenue losses for the UK exchequer."

Quite.

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