"Our great cultural tradition is under threat"by John McTernan / September 9, 2016 / Leave a comment
Denmark—like other Northern European countries—has high excise duties on alcohol in an attempt to reduce heavy drinking and alcohol abuse. There are good public policy reasons for this—the dangers of foetal alcohol syndrome, the health costs to individuals of alcohol and the social and economic costs in terms of alcohol-related crime. The problem is that the Danish taxes were lower than in Sweden. As a consequence, Swedes poured into Copenhagen over the Öresund Bridge to take advantage of the lower prices. A kind of hedonic arbitrage.
This is something Brits are well aware of too. While the taxes on our booze are not as high as in Scandinavian nations—despite the best efforts of the SNP Scottish Government to impose a minimum price on alcohol—they are still far higher than in our near neighbour France. Hence our love of the “booze cruise.” This has gone through many mutations—surviving even the abolition of duty-free for those travelling with the European Union. The secret to its endurance is the strength of its appeal—it is cheaper to get guttered in France than in Britain.
And with the introduction of the HMRC guidance that the limit on what can be permissibly brought back from mainland Europe is what can be deemed to be for personal use, it can also be cheaper to get slaughtered back home too. This is a loophole that a Transit van can be driven through—and regularly is. There are, one suspects, pubs in the north which are supplied solely by smuggled booze and fags. Many Brits accept this kind of thing, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, alcohol is a simple, inexpensive and self-administered form of social control. Second, there are few rights guarded more fiercely than the British right to get drunk—hence smugglers are romantic heroes, the excise man a villain. Think of the Robert Burns song “The De’il’s Awa wi’ th’ Exciseman”:
And mony braw thanks to the Merkel black deil,
That danc’d awa wi’ th’ Exciseman.
There’s threesome reels, there’s foursome reels,
There’s hornpipes and strathspeys, man,
But the ae best dance ere came to the land
Was-the deil’s awa wi’ the Exciseman.’
No chance of Prohibition in Britain. But now our great cultural tradition is under threat. Brexit means Brexit is a (politically useful) empty tautology—except in the case of the inalienable British right to get wasted.…