Scraping the barrel: Confusion over what the ‘Brexit Pubs Guarantee’ has to do with Brexit

'What an utter insult to all of our intelligence!!...They can’t get any STAFF because of Brexit'

Sunak pulling pint

On August 1, the Chancellor formerly launched his new ‘Brexit Pubs Guarantee.’ The policy means that pints and other drinks on tap in pubs will be up to 11pence cheaper than equivalents in the supermarkets.

The pledge that pubs will always pay less alcohol duty than supermarkets is part of a series of changes to the alcohol duty system which were announced at the Autumn Budget in 2021. Drinks are also now taxed by volume (ABV) strength, instead of using different duty structures for different drinks. Another change is the introduction of the Small Producer Relief, which replaces the Small Brewers Relief scheme. It means that small businesses which produce alcoholic products with an ABV of less than 8.5 percent are eligible for reduced rates of alcohol duty on qualifying products.

Naturally, the pro-Brexit press relished the change, with the like of the Express shouting:

‘Brexit Pubs Guarantee means pints are cheaper in bars than supermarkets from today.’

However, the freezing of alcohol duty has also ended, meaning it will rise by the 10.1 percent inflation rate. As a result, duty will increase overall. Most wines and spirits will see rises, while the cost of drinks with lower alcohol strengths will fall.

In a PR stunt as the change came into effect, Rishi Sunak, a teetotaller, visited a beer festival in west London, where he pulled a pint of Black Dub stout. The photo op backfired, as when pouring the drink, the PM was greeted by a shout of: “Prime minister, oh the irony that you’re raising alcohol duty on the day that you’re pulling a pint.”

Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, hailed the move as evidence Brexit is helping Brits enjoy cheaper nights out amid the cost-of-living squeeze. Visiting a pub close to the Treasury, Hunt said the announcement was “really positive” and will “help pubs keep their heads above water.”

Confusion however surfaced online as to what the policy has to do with Brexit. 

“What on earth does this have to do with Brexit?” asked one bemused Twitter user.

“French Pub Guarantee. All alcohol is significantly cheaper (and better quality) than the UK. Brexit. Stop taking the piss out of us,” someone else mocked.

“What an utter insult to all of our intelligence!!… They can’t get any STAFF because of Brexit,” wrote another.

‘Naive and fanciful’

Meanwhile, a leading industry body labelled the alcohol duty changes as ‘naive and fanciful.’

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), which has represented licensed trade establishments since 1880, hit out at the government. Paul Waterson, a spokesperson for the body, said: “We are not convinced that this change in draft beer and cider duty will help us or our customers in any way. For the Chancellor to say this cut in draft beer duty is a ‘Brexit Pub Guarantee’ is as naive as it is fanciful.

“We know from experience that we don’t benefit from cuts to alcohol duty because the duty is paid by producers, who do not adjust their prices down accordingly when selling to us. It is a system designed to benefit the producers and the big pub companies.

“They are able to negotiate price discounts whereas smaller independent operators, such as our members, do not have that power.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Twitter screen grab

Comments are closed.