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UK reinstates freeze on alcohol duties in budget flip-flop

britain's chancellor of the exchequer jeremy hunt walks at downing street in london
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt Photo by Reuters

Britain‘s government said on Monday that it would freeze taxes on alcohol until August, reversing a decision taken only two months ago by finance minister Jeremy Hunt and partially reinstating a tax cut put forward by his predecessor.

By default, British alcohol duties are designed to rise in line with inflation. However, in September Hunt’s predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng announced a one-year freeze, to take effect from February 2023, as part of a plan to boost economic growth.

That freeze was one of a number of measures which Hunt reversed in October after he took over from Kwarteng. Kwarteng had to quit after financial markets baulked at the number of unfunded tax cuts he had proposed.

On Monday, Britain’s finance ministry said it was now going to keep alcohol duties on hold at their current rate for six months from Feb. 1, and that Hunt would consider appropriate future rates at his first annual budget on March 15.

“We fully understand that businesses face difficulty and uncertainty in the face of rising energy bills and inflation,” junior finance minister James Cartlidge told parliament. “I understand that they want certainty and reassurance in these challenging times.”

When the measure was reversed in October, Britain’s finance ministry said going ahead with a freeze would cost 600 million pounds ($730 million) a year.

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