Irish passport holders in the North to benefit from access to the controversial new 20 million Newry Duty-Free Zone…

For generations, border people have been arbitrage experts, using the different regimes North and South to their advantage. In the Second World War they would smuggle things like butter and eggs, but in recent years, it has more likely been diesel, cattle and even waste.

Now renowned local Newry entrepreneur Dan Amibaareáin is looking to capitalise on the NI Protocol by building a new £8 million pound Duty-Free Shopping Centre on the outskirts of Newry. Under the NI Protocol rules, shoppers from the south can avail of Duty-Free prices in the North.

This new growth opportunity has opened up as a result of the changes made by the Windsor Framework to the VAT and Excise rules that apply under Article 8 of the Protocol. Although the Principal VAT Directive 2006/112/EC will still apply in NI, it now enjoys a six county-shaped  carve-out. This is spelled out in a revision to Annex 3 of the Protocol under joint UK-EU declarations on Excise and VAT. These specify ‘the manner in which the Union acts listed in sections 1 & 2 of Annex 3 apply to and in the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland’. Now that NI can diverge from EU rules in line with certain UK VAT rules and excise duty changes, travel across the Irish border now counts as travel into a different territory.  As long as goods are for personal consumption, those crossing the border are now free to make the most of their ‘personal allowances’  for VAT- and Duty-Free shopping as ‘visitors’ to the other territory.

 With the recent minimum alcohol Unit prices in the south, the savings can be considerable.

A 12-pack of Guinness now costs around €25 in Dublin, but Dan claims it will be around £7 in his duty-free store. A 1-litre bottle of Jameson Whiskey would be €32 in the South, but only £11 in the North. The biggest savings will be in tobacco. 200 Benson and Hedges would cost you £132 in a shop, but with Duty Free they would cost only £35.

And it is not just booze and fags, Dan also expects to do a roaring trade in electronic devices like phones and tablets.

Already Newry does a roaring trade with Southern Shoppers, but it is expected the new Dan’s Duty Free store will turbocharge cross border trade.

In a further twist, Dan believes Irish passport holders in the North can access the duty-free prices. He says:

The main requirement for purchasing is to show a non-UK passport. If someone presents with an Irish Passport it is none of my business if they live in Dublin, Cork, or Craigavon.

Since Brexit increasing numbers of people in Northern Ireland have been applying for Irish Passports. Will the temptation of cheap goods attract even more?

All this has major implications for other traders in Newry and even a substantial loss of tax revenue to the UK and Irish Governments. But Dan is confident he is on a firm legal footing and has engaged several high-profile legal figures to represent him.

Political reaction to the news has been predictably mixed. Local TUV Councillor Johnston McJohnston said:

The good people of Ulster will not be bought off with cheap devils buttermilk!

But Newry SF Councillor Pascal Joseph Mary Plunkett was more supportive:

Cheap booze you say? The Mrs is a devil for the gin, this will save me a friggin’ fortune.

If the project takes off Dan is planning other Duty Free shops in border areas such as Belleek and Derry.

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