It might be hard to shed tears for anyone sweating over Brexit’s effect on the value of their ski lodge in the Val-d’Isere, but the Booze Cruise is a travel tradition close to the hearts of millions of motorists. Will Brexit spell the end of the road for cut-price plonk? Simon Hacker investigates
If you like a spot of Sauvignon with your Saturday night TV, or a decent Bordeaux with your roast beef on a Sunday, you might not be raising a glass to Nigel Farage: amid the fog of uncertainty that surrounds our future relationship with the EU, itís looking like the tradition of the Great British Booze Cruise is drinking in the last-chance saloon.
Itís a travel phenomenon that should, by rights, already be consigned to history. After all, we lost the right to buy duty-free booze and tobacco when travelling to or from another EU country back in 1999. However, the subsequent arrangement allowed a loophole large enough to drive a Transit through (as so many often do). As agreements currently stand, we enjoy the right to bring back virtually unlimited amounts of duty-paid goods from our fellow EU countries. The nitty-gritty of the law permits 800 cigarettes, 110 litres of beer and 90 litres of wine, but the reality is that ìpersonal useî can mean a car loaded to the headlining.
So anyone partial to a summerís supply of Pinot when returning from France can help themselves to immense savings. In case you wonder how, it works like this: book a return ferry to Calais for you, the family and the car, hang a left at the nearest French hypermarket and fill your boot. The price difference? Itís enough to underwrite the cost of the trip and sometimes even more, seeing as duty on wine in France is a piffling 23p per 750mlÖ a heady saving against our punitive tax back here of £2.08 per bottle. Proportionate savings on beer equate to around 30 per cent on cans and 35 per cent on bottles. Doubles all round!
Now weíre leaving though, the most logical economic scenario is that we will revert to the same arrangements which apply to all other non-EU countries. This spells a duty-free allowance of 200 cigarettes, 16 litres of beer and four measly litres of wine ñ not even a case. Crucially, pack any excess bottles next to your spare wheel and customs will insist you pay £2 for each bottle brought home. Suddenly, the romantic allure of Carrefour and Auchanís alcohol avenues appear to lose their irresistible sheen.
A recent Financial Times report suggested there may be light at the end of the Eurotunnel: Jacques Gounon, the chief executive of Eurotunnel said he was optimistic about the Brexit end game for booze-cruisers, hailing the return of duty-free as a boost to business. Quite how that translates into great news for anyone looking for more than four litres of wine as a souvenir, however, remains unclear.
Further, broader factors, bode ominously for Formule 1 hotel managers post-Brexit. For a start, a Euro now costs more against the sterling, having dropped (at time of going to press) from around €1.30 to €1.16, making a flit to France pricier for us all. Free passage remains a further potential issue. Once weíve left, weíll be able to travel freely to EU countries, but we will have to enter the non-EU line for passport checksÖ a prospect at which a small army of bloody-minded, shoulder-shrugging Calais customs officers are no doubt already profusely salivating.
All prospects for a short nip to the Cite díEurope will become trickier. Will the government step in to ensure our sacred right to strain our rear axles remains a red line in negotiations? The chances are perhaps best explained by Prospect magazine, which is pessimistic of a deal to keep us driving to the port: ìThe government is bent on cutting taxes for corporations ñ not to get them to come here, but in desperation to keep them here. That tax has to come from somewhere, and your case of French wine, whether Vin de Pays or a cheeky CuvÈe, is going to cost more.î