Friday, February 23, 2024

Fears for Border pubs as UK slashes price of Northern Ireland pint

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Publicans in Ireland’s border regions fear added competition from their Northern Irish counterparts after the UK’s ‘Brexit pubs guarantee’.

ritish chancellor Jeremy Hunt says duties on draught beer will be up to 11p lower than cans and bottles bought in supermarkets, something he said was “not possible” when the country was an EU member.

“Publicans in Ireland already have to deal with Europe’s second highest alcohol excise rate, so any move to reduce the price of a pint in Northern Ireland will directly impact border pubs,” said a spokesperson for the Vintners Federation of Ireland.

“We have been consistent in our demand to lower the excise rate and the move by the British government to lower the tax on draught pints only serves to underline our call.”

The British Beer and Pub Association welcomed the relief but said it would not offset “the catastrophic impact soaring inflation and unfair energy contracts are having”.

In his “budget for growth”, Mr Hunt held off on capping companies’ energy costs, as he did for households, given limited fiscal headroom and the need to pay down high debts.

Slightly more optimistic inflation and growth forecasts – the UK is to escape a technical recession this year, Mr Hunt said – allowed for targeted measures for firms and households.

Mr Hunt unveiled £9bn in business tax reliefs alongside childcare, pension and work incentives that he hopes will boost firms’ prospects and bolster growth in a faltering economy.

The UK is pressing ahead with a planned hike to corporation tax that will take the rate to 25pc in April, 10 points ahead of Ireland’s future rate of 15pc for large companies.

UK firms will be able to write off the full cost of any IT equipment, plant or machinery from their taxable profits, a “cut” to corporation tax that the chancellor said was worth an average of £9bn (€10.3bn) a year.

The measure replaces the £25bn Covid-era ‘super deduction’ which was more generous at 130pc.The Confederation of British Industry said the new measure “will keep the UK at the top table for attracting investment”.

Smaller firms can avail of a 27pc tax relief on a portion of their research and development spending, a measure Mr Hunt said would turn Britain into a “science superpower”.

Film, TV and animation companies also saw a small hike to their tax reliefs, taking them slightly above the rates offered in Ireland.

UK firms welcomed moves to boost the number of women, disabled people and over-50s in the workforce, including a 50pc increase in the tax-free allowance for pensions and a move to offer 30 hours of free childcare to all children over nine months in working households.

The budget also included pledges of less red tape for medicines and tech – particularly artificial intelligence – and 12 more state-funded special investment zones, including one in Northern Ireland that is subject to the restoration of the government in Stormont.

Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at stockbrokers AJ Bell, said there was “not much for businesses to get excited about” as firms contend with increased costs for energy and labour.

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