Wales’ MUP plans stalled for a year

Plans to roll out minimum pricing (MUP) across Wales this summer have stalled, after Portugal raised an objection to the process under EU rules.

Under the EU rules, any member state can raise a ‘detailed opinion’ on another member states’ policy plans that concern products, which triggers a 3-month halt on the draft legislation, while the member state responds to the objection.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said it would be considering the detailed opinion received from the Portugal and would respond to the EU Commission “in due course.”

According to the BBC, Portugal was one of five countries that objected to similar plans by the Scottish Government’s in 2013, along with France, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria, arguing that the plans breached European free trade law by discriminating against imported alcohol products. It argued that the policy was illegal, unfair and ineffective.

In a written statement, Welsh Assembly Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he was “fully committed to introducing a minimum price for alcohol in Wales”.

“Alcohol is a major cause of death and illness in Wales and once implemented, will make an important contribution to reducing the devastation caused by alcohol related harm in Wales,” he said.

He added that receiving the detailed opinion would means delaying putting the draft regulation before the National Assembly for Wales until the autumn.

“Should these regulations be passed by the National Assembly for Wales, I would anticipate that the minimum pricing regime would come into force in early 2020,” he said.

Under the plans, MUP would adopt the minimum unit price at 50 pence, meaning a can of cider would cost at least £1 and a bottle of wine £4.69. When the bill was put before the Senedd last year, alcohol sold below 50p per unit accounted for 72% of beer sales in Welsh shops and supermarkets, 78% of cider sales, 42% of wine sales and 66% of the spirits, according to the BBC.

Welsh Assembly Member Neil Hamilton reportedly labelled the proposed measures a “Strongbow tax on the poor”.

The news comes as Scotland hailed the success of its own introduction of MUP, which was finally rolled out on 1 May 2018, following a battle in the Supreme Court. It was widely reported this week that alcohol consumption north of the border has fallen to its lowest level in Scotland for 25 years following the introduction of MUP, however as pointed out by the drinks business, the full picture is not as clear.

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