Northern Ireland Airports Call for Return of Duty Free for EU Flights
Northern Ireland’s three main airports, backed by the UK Travel Retail Forum, are uniting to call on the UK Government and the European Commission to return duty free for flights from Northern Ireland to the EU.
The UK formally left the EU at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. From January 2021 duty free shopping from British airports was extended to include EU destinations. This facility was not extended to Northern Ireland’s airports. The reason given at the time was the on-going discussion with the EU on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. With the agreement of the Windsor Framework, Belfast International, Belfast City and the City of Derry airports believe it is time to correct this anomaly and return duty free facilities to Northern Ireland’s airports.
Duty free sales account for over £900 million in GDP to the UK economy, supporting local economies and jobs, and generating significant non-aeronautical revenue for airports. Non-aeronautical revenue can account for as much as 40 per cent of the total revenue of an airport, and smaller, regional airports can be particularly sensitive to it, as it supports reinvestment, capital expenditure and permits new route development which in turn can generate further aeronautical revenue.
The inability of Northern Irish airports to sell duty free to passengers travelling to either GB or the EU is already resulting in an estimated £5 million loss each year to regional Gross Value Added. Given the Northern Irish economy is comparatively small in size, this loss continues to be substantial.
The three airports, and the wider travel retail industry, are calling on the UK Government and the EU Commission to use the mechanisms under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Windsor Framework to find a solution to this problem.
Nigel Keal, Chairperson of the UK Travel Retail Forum, said, ‘The return of duty free post-Brexit has proven incredibly popular with consumers, with overseas retailers seeing significant increases in sales of duty free goods to departing UK passengers. This has been a crucial financial support as the aviation and travel retail sectors recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Preventing airports and businesses in Northern Ireland from accessing this revenue stream is unfair. It puts them at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the UK, and to the rest of Europe.’