The EU’s Court of Justice is likely to rule today that it is legal for people in the UK to circumvent the tax system by ordering cigarettes and alcohol by mail order from another EU country.
The ruling would reverse a previous decision that stopped Death Cigarettes running exactly this kind of scam a few years back.
It’s a worrying development of the very worst sort of “competence creep” as the Euro-wonks call it. That’s the notion that the EU gradually expands the areas in which its powerful non-elected institutions (the Court of Justice, the Commission and the Council) have power over the democratically elected governments of its member states.
Last year, a ruling on Marks & Spencer’s disastrous foray into France, Germany and other EU countries gave the company the right to write-off millions of pounds of tax revenue.
The latest decision would probably see a rise in smoking and drinking as prices come down. It would also see a huge rise in the black market for booze and fags, as it becomes even easier to get them from abroad legally and then sell them on. It just seems that public health and the use of tax funds to pay public services are not the important thing facing the European Court of Justice. Their only consideration in this will presumably be pushing the single market forward.
Now, The Daily likes the idea of a social Europe as much as the next blog. We like trips to Paris, gap years in Spain, the working time directive and purple passports. However, we have to face the fact that the main focus of the EU, certainly over the last decade or two, has been pushing the free market on member states at the expense of “market barriers” like tax revenue and contracted public services.
Probably fair to say it wasn’t The Daily’s finest moment when we posted this story about ten minutes before the European Court of Justice ruled against the liberalisation of booze and fags across Europe. In our/my defence, it is very rare for the Court to rule against a preliminary ruling.
Anyway, it’s always a pleasure to see an outbreak of good sense in the ECJ, even if it means eating a little humble pie in The Daily’s dingy basement office.