Calls to cut alcohol duty as Euros begin, as British drinkers 'pay 10 times as much as tax per pint as in Germany'

14 June 2024, 06:05

People socialising and drinking at a pub in London in summer
People socialising and drinking at a pub in London in summer. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

British pub groups and breweries have called on politicians to cut alcohol duty, with the tax rate the UK is much higher than in several other European countries.

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Heineken, Budweiser, Greene King, Stonegate, JD Wetherspoon and Diageo and around 80 others wrote an open letter to coincide with the start of Euro 2024.

British pubs pay more tax on alcohol sales than most other countries, with only Finland levying a higher rate in Europe. Ireland has a similar level to the UK.

But the government has frozen alcohol duty since 2020 and the current rate is in place until February 2025.

The pub companies and breweries called for an urgent cut in alcohol duty as a "first step" towards bringing the UK in line with the European average and an "urgent radical reform" of business rates.

Read more: Tim Martin pledges to freeze price of Wetherspoons breakfasts amid rising food costs

Read more: Wetherspoons boss Sir Tim Martin brands Dry January a 'cult', and effect on pub sales has got worse in recent years

The Sloop Inn traditional pub busy with holidaymakers sitting outside in beer garden in St Ives, Cornwall
The Sloop Inn traditional pub busy with holidaymakers sitting outside in beer garden in St Ives, Cornwall. Picture: Alamy

The letter said: "For every three pounds spent in a pub, one pound goes straight to the tax man.

"Pubs pay up to four times the business rates of other comparable businesses and until the urgent radical reform to business rates is implemented the current 75% relief in England is a lifeline without which many more pubs would close.

"The upcoming Euros championships brings into sharp focus the extent to which beer remains over-taxed.

"British beer drinkers cheering on England and Scotland pay 54p duty per pint compared to German or Spanish fans paying less than 5p.

"Combined with high costs such as energy, publicans currently only make an average 12p profit on the average £4.80 pint in the UK."

Sir Tim Martin speaks to LBC

The letter, written by Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, whose members brew 90% of the beer sold in the UK, adds: "Whilst there has been recognition and acknowledgement from successive governments on the important role that pubs and brewers play in our society, a step change is required to secure its future and to promote and celebrate such an intrinsic part of British life that brings combined economic, social, and cultural value to almost every community around the country.

"The beer and pub sector is special, but it does not need special favours - it needs fair recognition of its unique value.

"It is, therefore, imperative that the next government provides a sustainable and proportionate fiscal and regulatory framework that allows the sector to do what it does best; invest in our businesses and employees, embrace changing consumer taste and demands, and provide the community hubs that are the crucial and often invisible glue to social cohesion.

"It's the Government's responsibility to provide that framework, we can do the rest."

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