The emergence of duty-free shopping at the Derry/Donegal border could be exploited in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, it’s been warned. Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty raised concerns in the Dáil about the potential introduction of tax-free shopping at Lough Foyle.
The Donegal T.D. said: “In the context of a no-deal scenario, our island would have a European frontier, and on this island there are well-established ferry crossings, for example, Greencastle to Magilligan in Derry, Carlingford to Portaferry and Omeath to Warrenpoint.
“I am referring to ports that would be deemed to be in different jurisdictions from one another. Could a duty free scenario not arise in respect of those points of crossing?”
Minister for Finance, Pascal Donohoe, replied: “That would be dependent on whether any business interest or operator wanted to deal with any of those places.”
To this Sinn Féin Dublin South-Central Aengus Ó Snodaigh suggested companies interested in running “booze cruises” could be enticed to take advantage of the reintroduction of duty free shopping on the new EU/UK frontier.
Deputy Donohue said: “That in turn would require authorisation from the Revenue Commissioners. A process would have to be gone through whereby the Revenue Commissioners would need to form an assessment.”
But Mr. Doherty queried: “Would that necessarily be done by our Revenue Commissioners? Could it be done by the British authorities?”
During the exchanges in the Dáil, as the government sought amendments to its ‘Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019’ in order to prepare for the potential reintroduction by the UK of duty-free from March 29, the Finance Minister said he did not believe the duty free consequences of the measures across the border would be significant.
He further stated that under European Union law Ireland was not permitted to operate duty free shops on the land frontier.
If duty-free is reintroduced it will occur at ports and airports, he said.
Deputy Doherty, responding, stated: “The Minister referred to the reduced potential of the cross-border element, but the scenario in question could be deemed an opportunity.
“One could set up a duty free shop right on the border if one had the authorisation of the customs officials in London.”
The Minister for Finance replied: “In that kind of scenario, the customs authorities would need to work together to form a view on the matter.”