Highly profitable duty and tax free sales are currently being used in part by air and sea transport operators to keep charges and fares down. Abolition of duty free sales could have an adverse impact on tourism through potentially higher charges by airports, airlines and maritime transport companies. This could be particularly problematic for low fare airlines and ferry companies, slowing down tourism growth to Ireland where more competitive fares have underpinned above average growth in tourist arrivals in recent years.
I assure the Deputy that the Government is availing of every opportunity to raise this issue at political level in appropriate fora and to suggest the need for further study by the European Commission of the implications of the abolition of intra-EU duty free. Because of the potentially damaging impact of the proposed measure on the development of the tourism industry generally, the Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy Flood, raised the issue at the EU Tourism Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on 26 November. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Public Enterprise have also been active in highlighting the importance of the matter. Last week the Taoiseach raised the subject at the EU Employment Summit in Luxembourg and he reported to the House on the outcome in some detail on 25 November. There is a special committee studying the implications for Ireland in his Department and he intends putting down a further marker about Ireland's concerns at the December summit.
The Taoiseach outlined in his statement on 25 November the Government's strategy which is to continue to seek to have the matter raised with transport Ministers, ECOFIN, the European Council and the Commission.