Tackling the growing scourge of cross-border tobacco smuggling must remain a priority during the ongoing Brexit negotiations, retailers in Northern Ireland claim.
The call comes as it is revealed that border retailers in Ireland and Northern Ireland are becoming increasingly worried about Brexit’s impact on the illicit trade in their communities.
Border retailers in the Republic of Ireland are 63% more concerned about the impact that Brexit will have on smuggling and the sale of illicit goods in their communities than they were a year ago, while North of the border that figure is almost 70%, the survey conducted by Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) and Retail NI showed.
In Northern Ireland three in five retailers say they have already noticed an increase in the trade of smuggled products in the past year, while 90% of border retailers in the Republic of Ireland believe the trade of smuggled products is hurting their profits by as much as 10%.
In Northern Ireland, 43% of retailers estimate this same impact to be 10-20% of their turnover.
The survey results showed that smuggling over the border must remain front of mind during all Brexit negotiations, RAS spokesperson and Dublin based retailer Benny Gilsenan said.
“It’s not just the loss of revenue from missing out on the sale of a packet of cigarettes or bottle of wine. Retailers find that when a customer doesn’t buy these in their shop, they’re not buying their pint of milk, they’re not buying their sliced pan (bread) with us either.
“It has a huge knock on effect on small businesses, and this is seen on both sides of the border.”
CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland Lorraine Higgins said: “Greater consideration needs to be given to the challenges retailers are facing, and how Brexit will only exacerbate those difficulties.
“Rising excise tax has proven to be an ineffective way of dealing with the problem, we need to see the Sale of Illicit Goods Bill introduced so that progress can finally be made.”
CEO of Retail NI Glyn Roberts also called for more resources to be made available to tackling the issue of smuggling in Ireland.
“Government needs to listen to retailers and provide the necessary supports,” he said.
The survey also revealed that only one in five retailers believe that the authorities have the resources they need to deal with smuggling and illicit trade in their area both North and South of the border.
It also emerged that 42% of Republic of Ireland border retailers don’t know how to report suspected illicit trading.
Among Northern Ireland border retailers that figure is just over 20%.
Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) and Retail NI unveiled the survey results at the second high-level round-table discussion in Belfast to tackle Brexit, the Border & the Black Market.
Members of the Irish Government, An Garda Síochána, the PSNI and HMRC discussed the issues that retailers on both sides of the border will face in the coming months and years.