Duty-free area at Belfast International Airport. Photo: Belfast International Airport.

MIAMI – The Director of Belfast International Airport (BFS), Graham Keddie has warned about planned changes to duty-free in the UK. The UK Government will allow duty-free sales between the island and the European Union (EU) from January 2021.

Therefore, according to the BBC, the UK government expects a significant increase in the amount passengers can bring back to the UK from EU and non-EU countries.

This means that passengers would be able to purchase duty-free alcohol and tobacco products, where available, at British ports , airports and international train stations, and on board ships, trains and aircraft.

The rules do not apply to Northern Ireland yet. But Keddie stated that they could “damage” the region’s connectivity. Consequently, he believes that Northern Ireland will be “even more uncompetitive” compared to the Republic of Ireland.

Duty-free area at George Best Belfast City Airport. Photo: Belfast City Airport.

Impact in Northern Ireland Airports

Keddie also said that the changes in duty-free allowances will have further negative implications. As the aviation industry currently faces a lack of confidence and deals with quarantine rules, the UK decision is just “another nail in our coffin.”

Regarding the region, the move will make Northern Ireland airports “less attractive to airlines,” according to Keddie. Carriers will be looking at this wearily as they sell duty-free on their flights to generate ancillary revenue.

Duty-free sale allowances for goods such as electronics and clothing will be also implemented in January 2021. Duty-free, personal allowance and the VAT Retail Export Scheme changes will apply in England, Wales, and Scotland.

The UK government has already said they would provide guidance to implement these measures. Additionally, it remains working with a joint committee on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Featured photo: Duty-free area at Belfast International Airport. Photo: Belfast International Airport.