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Sunak heckled over alcohol duty hikes during beer festival photo op

01 Aug 2023 5 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia, in London. Photo Daniel Leal/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak has been heckled during a beer festival visit where he was seeking to promote a shake-up of the alcohol duty regime that will hike tax on a range of drinks.

“Prime Minister, oh the irony that you’re raising alcohol duty on the day that you’re pulling a pint,” publican Rudi Keyser yelled as Mr Sunak toured the London event on Tuesday.

Mr Sunak had been insisting businesses and consumers will benefit from the post-Brexit alcohol duty changes, despite the raises on wine, vodka and canned beer.

First set out by Mr Sunak when he was chancellor in 2021, the new system aims to encourage drinkers to cut back by taxing all alcohol based on its strength, rather than the previous categories of wine, beer, spirits, and ciders.

He described the overhaul as “the most radical simplification of alcohol duties for over 140 years”, enabled by Britain’s exit from the EU.

But whisky distillers describe the changes as a “hammer blow” and brewers warn of a tax hike on bottles and cans.

Mr Sunak was pouring a pint of Black Dub stout at the stall of the Wensleydale brewery from his constituency when he was heckled by Mr Keyser, a 46-year-old who runs a chain pub in London’s Wimbledon.

Mr Keyser, a former brewer, told the PA news agency that Mr Sunak’s claim that drinkers and businesses will benefit is just “smoke and mirrors”.

“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said, insisting the consumers will see an increase in prices as a result of the changes.

“And he has the audacity to come and pull a pint for PR,” Mr Keyser added.

Coke fan

Another man shouted at the teetotal premier, who is famously a fan of Coke: “Prime Minister, it’s not Coca Cola.”

In March’s Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt also announced that the freeze to alcohol duty would end on August 1 and increase by inflation, at 10.1%.

The increase will see duty rise by 44p on a bottle of wine, which when combined with VAT will mean consumers will pay an extra 53p, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

Duty on 18% cream sherry will go up from £2.98 to £3.85, with VAT adding up to an increase of more than £1 a bottle, while a bottle of port will go up by more than £1.50.

The total tax on a bottle of gin or vodka will go up by around 90p.

The Chancellor is cutting the duty charged on draught pints across the UK by 11p in August in a major boost for pubs and draught beer drinkers, which Mr Sunak hailed as beneficial to “thousands of businesses across the country”.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said brewers will pay 10.1% more tax on bottles and cans of beer from Tuesday, meaning tax will make up around 30% of the cost of a 500ml bottle.

Despite the draught freeze, the BBPA said the tax increase on packaged beer will add an extra £225 million of costs per year across the industry.

A hammer blow

Scotch Whisky Association director of strategy Graeme Littlejohn said: “The 10.1% duty increase is a hammer blow for distillers and consumers.

“At a time when inflation has only just started to creep downwards, this tax increase will continue to fuel inflation and make it more difficult for the Scotch whisky industry to invest in growth and job creation in Scotland and across the UK supply chain.

“Rather than choosing to back an industry which the UK Government promised to support through the tax system, the Government has chosen to impose the largest duty increase in almost half a century, increasing the cost of every bottle of Scotch whisky sold in the UK by almost a pound and taking the tax burden on the average priced bottle to 75%.

“In a further blow, distillers will now face a further competitive disadvantage in pubs, restaurants and bars by being unfairly excluded from tax breaks available to beer and cider.

“Pubs and other on-trade businesses are about far more than beer and cider.”

The Chancellor said the Government is doing “all we can” to help Britain’s pubs as they face rising costs, and said the change taking effect on Tuesday “catapults us into the 21st century”.

The Treasury has said more than 38,000 UK pubs will benefit from tax relief that effectively freezes or cuts the alcohol duty on beer poured from tap from Tuesday.

Mr Hunt said: “British pubs are the beating heart of our communities and as they face rising costs, we’re doing all we can to help them out. Through our Brexit Pubs Guarantee, we’re protecting the price of a pint.

“The changes we’re making to the way we tax alcohol catapults us into the 21st century, reflecting the popularity of low alcohol drinks and boosting growth in the sector by supporting small producers financially.”


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Karl
Karl
7 months ago

The wetherspoons loyalty program and yet another non brexit benefit

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
7 months ago

A bit bloody late for most pubs – thousands have already closed down. It’s like closing the gate after the horse has bolted. Typical Tories, I expect they’ve been hit financially somewhere from the closures so have decided to act. We’ll see a ton of these sort of off the wall policies coming out over the next year, none of them addressing the real issues facing the thousands smacked by the cost of living crisis. Facing massive food and fuel expenses? Look we’ve just given 100 new oil and gas licenses and raised taxes on alcohol for you!

Gareth
Gareth
7 months ago

Last week we had Neil Randle of Bang On Brewery complaining he would have to sell his beer at over£ 12 a bottle, if our Gov included glass in the recycling programme, and today, a tax hike on alcohol and not a peep, radio silence. Hey Neil, now will it cost £ 12 a bottle and who is to blame, or were you scaremongering, or just trying to score political points.

Llyn
Llyn
7 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Neil Randle of Bang On Brewery probably voted Tory in 2019 whose manifesto promised the glass recycling scheme which he is so opposed

loggs
loggs
7 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Have a look on the Bang on Brewery website. He sell 6 bottles for £22.99 that’s around £3.83 I doubt it he will rise the price to £72 for a six pack lol

Llyn
Llyn
7 months ago

Absurd – teetotal millionaire Sunak trying to look like like a man of the people by pouring a drink he refuses to pass his lips.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago

With these hikes old Rishy Sunak has to crawl back all the money he’s given away as a pre-election bung. It’s give with one hand collect with a fist.

karl
karl
7 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

And making trade with the EU hard work, with different tax rates.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
6 months ago

“Mr Sunak was pouring a pint of Black Dub stout at the stall of the Wensleydale brewery from his constituency …”

I’ve seen the photo of the finished result; one-third to half the glass consists of froth. To say the barmaid standing behind him looked unimpressed would be damning her with faint praise.

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