The WSTA has urged the government to freeze duty on alcohol after the Republic of Ireland halted drinks tax rises in its latest Budget. 

UK consumers pay £10 billion in alcohol duty each year – or £154 per head – the second-highest level in the EU and 2.8 times the average per capita spend of £55.

Peter O’Brien, chairman of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, said: “The drinks industry was hit with excise increases in Budget 2013 and 2014, so we welcome the government’s decision not to increase excise on alcohol today and to increase excise relief for microbreweries. 

“However, it must be stated that the current excise level in this country is uncompetitive and that while today’s announcement represents an important first step in supporting this industry, we would call on government to reverse the excise increases of recent years in next year’s Budget.” 

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “Following the UK government’s positive decision to abolish the alcohol duty escalator and freeze spirits duty in March, yesterday’s announcement of a freeze in alcohol duty for Irish consumers is further recognition that alcohol duty hikes are unfair on hard-pressed consumers and undermine an important industry, which makes a valuable contribution towards jobs and growth. 

“UK consumers still pay very high levels of alcohol duty, compared to their European neighbours. Further action to rebalance the duty burden would benefit UK consumers and the wider hospitality industry by supporting jobs and growth. This is why we will shortly be launching an industry wide campaign calling for fairer tax on wine and spirits.”