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The price of a bottle of wine could rise by 44p this summer after Jeremy Hunt limited a freeze on alcohol tax to pints.

The chancellor unveiled a surprise “Brexit pubs guarantee” in his budget that will keep the levy on beer and cider up to 11p lower than shop-bought booze.

But drinkers will see the duty on other alcohol soar by 10.1% in August in line with inflation after a freeze during the peak of the cost of living crisis.

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Mr Hunt said the exemption would protect pubs as he quipped: “British ale is warm but the duty on a pint is frozen.”

However, wine and whisky producers did not see the funny side as they accused the chancellor of inflicting a “historic blow” on their industries with the highest tax increases in nearly 50 years.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said the changes will mean that duty on a bottle of still wine will go up by 44p while a bottle of vodka could rise by 76p.

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For fortified wines, the increase will be even greater, with port potentially rising by £1.30 a bottle.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the WSTA, said the government was “punishing” businesses and consumers with “the largest increase in wine duty since 1975”.

“What does government have against people who choose to produce and drink wine?” he said.

“These crippling inflationary tax hikes will be lumped on top of stealth tax rises for some alcoholic products, which the government has built into the move to taxing alcohol by strength.

“After all the effort to relaunch hospitality supply chains in 2022, the government is offering no help in 2023 for the wine and spirit trade – and particularly for the UK’s 33 million wine drinkers who will see their – and the nation’s – favourite drink hit with a 44p duty rise in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.”

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The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) also claimed the rise in alcohol duty would be the “largest tax increase for decades”.

Chief executive Mark Kent told Sky News: “It’s bad news. It’s bad news for the consumer, it’s bad news for inflation, bad news for spirits, bad news for scotch and bad news for Scotland which produces 90% of all UK spirits.”

The whisky boss said the duty rise means 75% of the cost of a bottle of scotch will go to the exchequer in tax – about £11 out of £15.

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The key points

Mr Kent said that is “the biggest tax hike since 1981” and the largest rate in the G7.

“We are already the highest taxed country in the G7 for spirits and our taxes are 60% more on average than the EU, so all of this puts us at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries,” he said.

“It discriminates against people who drink spirits, what we want to see is a fair system where the unit of alcohol, however you choose to consume it, is taxed at the same rate.”

He warned the hit to profit will impact jobs and investment as he called on MPs to reject the measure.

“Our message has been clear, the best outcome would be a freeze because that has shown to bring in increasing revenues for the exchequer and supports businesses to invest more in the economy and in jobs.”

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt has been urged to U-turn on the decision to end the alcohol tax freeze

‘Brexit pubs guarantee’

Explaining the beer exemption as he set out his budget, Mr Hunt said he wanted to protect “one of our other most treasured community institutions, the great British pub”.

He told the Commons: “In December, I extended the alcohol duty freeze until August 1, after which duties will go up in line with inflation in the usual way.

“But today, I will do something that was not possible when we were in the EU and significantly increase the generosity of Draught Relief so that from August 1 the duty on draught products in pubs will be up to 11p lower than the duty in supermarkets, a differential we will maintain as part of a new Brexit pubs guarantee.

“Madam deputy speaker, British ale may be warm, but the duty on a pint is frozen.”

Many Tory MPs welcomed the announcement, while the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said it was a “positive” step in time for summer.

But Emma McClarkin, the BBPA’s chief executive, added: “The fact is our industry will be facing an overall tax hike, not a reduction, come August. Duty on non-draught beer will rise and the measures introduced today won’t rebalance the catastrophic impact soaring inflation and unfair energy contracts are having on both pubs and the breweries that supply them.”

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Tesco Clubcard changes: Supermarket to cut value of rewards scheme




Tesco Clubcard changes: Supermarket to cut value of rewards scheme

Tesco is cutting the value of its Clubcard rewards scheme, with customers no longer able to get triple their value when they cash them in with scheme partners. 

The Tesco Clubcard reward partner scheme lets customers collect points while shopping and exchange them for vouchers for theme parks, restaurants and day trips.

Points used to be worth triple their value when they were exchanged – but from June will only be worth double.

The change will kick in on 14 June.

In a statement, Tesco said it was making the change “to make sure we can continue to provide a wide range of rewards that meet the needs of all our Tesco Clubcard members, while keeping prices low for everyone”.

But some Tesco customers expressed their outrage online given the context of the cost of living crisis.

One person tweeted: “Absolutely disgraceful from Tesco at a time when people are struggling enough with high prices and costs. More important to think of the profits I guess.”

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One Tesco customer said this could spell the end of their loyalty: “Main reason I hadn’t switched to Aldi or Lidl was because we use points for family meals out etc…one step closer to ditching Tesco now!”

Another was more measured in their response: “Card benefits used to be much, MUCH better – but still worthwhile.”

Tesco said it was extending the time period when partner rewards would be valid to 12 months, so any points cashed in for triple their value before 13 June can be used for a year.

In November, two million Tesco customers had Clubcard vouchers worth £13m that were due to expire.

If all those customers had cashed them in using the rewards scheme, the total savings would have totalled £39m.

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MPs describe Stormont brake aspect of Windsor Framework as ‘practically useless’




MPs describe Stormont brake aspect of Windsor Framework as 'practically useless'

A group of Eurosceptic MPs has described the Stormont brake – a key part of Rishi Sunak’s renegotiated Brexit deal – “practically useless”.

Mark Francois, chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), spoke after the group commissioned its “star chamber” of legal experts to pore over the Windsor Framework, the UK’s deal with the EU on post-Brexit arrangements when it comes to Northern Ireland.

Mr Francois said that among its initial findings were that EU law was “supreme” in Northern Ireland and that the rights of its people secured in the 1800 Act of Union had still not been restored.

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And in his harshest criticism, he said the Stormont brake – the mechanism that would allow a minority of politicians in Belfast to formally flag concerns about the imposition of new EU laws in Northern Ireland – was “practically useless”.

However, he said the ERG would meet again on Wednesday before deciding its approach to a Commons vote on the brake scheduled to take place on the same day.

The ERG’s criticisms of the Windsor Framework will be a blow to the prime minister, who had been hoping to secure widespread approval for his Brexit deal.

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While Mr Sunak does not need the votes of the DUP and ERG to get the legislation through parliament, he will not want to rely on Labour’s approval and will be looking to limit the size of any potential Tory rebellion.

The ERG’s preliminary verdict comes as little surprise after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) confirmed it would vote against the Stormont brake in the Commons vote.

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In a statement on Monday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said while the Windsor Framework represented “significant progress” in addressing concerns with the Northern Ireland Protocol, it did not deal with some of the “fundamental problems at the heart of our current difficulties”.

Sir Jeffrey said the brake “is not designed for, and therefore cannot apply, to the EU law which is already in place and for which no consent has been given for its application”.

“Whilst representing real progress, the ‘brake’ does not deal with the fundamental issue which is the imposition of EU law by the protocol,” he added.

The NI protocol was agreed as part of Boris Johnson’s “oven ready” Brexit deal and was designed to prevent a hard border in the interests of preserving the peace secured in the Good Friday Agreement.

But the protocol has led to unhappiness in the DUP, who say it has created trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and undermined its place in the UK.

Last February the DUP pulled out of the arrangement for devolved government in Northern Ireland in protest at the protocol, effectively leaving the region without government.

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The UK and Brussels agreed the Windsor Framework as a way to incentivise the return of power-sharing in Northern Ireland and to allay some of the key concerns of Unionists.

Under the agreement there will now be a green lane for goods that are destined for Northern Ireland will no longer be subject to time-consuming paperwork, checks and duties.

But Mr Francois said that the green lane “is not really a green lane at all”.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said on Tuesday that the Windsor Agreement was a “good deal” for the people of Northern Ireland that went “significantly beyond” the previous protocol.

The spokesperson said the Stormont Brake was a “significant step change in what had previously been agreed” and that it had dealt with the “democratic deficit” flagged by the DUP, whereby EU laws apply in Northern Ireland without the influence of politicians in Stormont.

The Stormont Brake remains the “only avenue” to change Northern Ireland’s status as being automatically aligned to EU rules, they added.

“A vote against the brake, in factual terms, would lead to automatic alignment with the EU with no say at all,” the spokesman said.

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Just Eat to axe around 1,700 delivery worker jobs




Just Eat to axe around 1,700 delivery worker jobs

Delivery giant Just Eat has announced it is to axe 1,700 jobs as it ceases to employ its delivery riders and drivers.

Instead it will use gig economy workers to deliver food in the UK, as opposed to the hybrid system of employees and self-employed workers, despite strong comments by the chief executive against the gig economy.

A further 170 people working in Just Eat’s operational department are also impacted.

Delivery employees have been given six weeks’ notice with pay and it is understood office staff will begin a process of redundancy and may be moved to other parts of the business.

While the company could not provide Sky News with the number of delivery riders and drivers it uses in the UK, it did say employees were only a small part of overall delivery operations and only operated in certain parts of six UK cities.

The employment model was rolled out in London in December 2020 and Just Eat became the first food delivery aggregator in the UK to employ delivery people.

Company chief executive Jitse Groen said in February 2021 that the gig economy “has led to precarious working conditions across Europe, the worst seen in a hundred years”.

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“The gig economy comes at the expense of society and workers themselves,” he wrote in the Financial Times while listing company plans to employ delivery workers.

Just Eat said the employee model will continue in Europe.

However, delivery riders and drivers are not employed in all of the company’s European markets. None are employed in Slovakia and Ireland.

The job cuts come after the company saw a 9% slump in customer numbers last year as diners returned to pubs and restaurants.

“Just Eat UK is reorganising and simplifying its delivery operation as part of the ongoing goal of improving efficiency,” a spokesperson said.

“There will be no impact to the service provided to partners and customers.”

Just Eat is the largest food online ordering and delivery service in Europe. It had been the largest outside China after the purchase of Grubhub in June 2020 but has since sold parts of the business.

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