Scrooge EU judges block festive booze bid.
The decision is a blow to consumers hoping for a pre-Christmas bonanza.
But it is good news for Chancellor Gordon Brown, who had been facing a multi-billion-pound-a-year hole in revenue from domestic excise duty if the decision had gone the other way. The European Court of Justice judges ruled that "only products acquired and transported personally by private individuals are exempt from excise duty in the member state of importation".
This means that Britons who want to take advantage of cheaper alcohol prices on the continent will still have to travel there on so-called booze cruises.
The Treasury already loses an estimated
pounds 1 billion a year to the "booze cruisers" who cross the Channel to bring back cheap-rate alcohol and cigarettes from France.
The losses would have been multiplied if the ruling had opened up the booze-cruise market to online shoppers.
Small traders in the UK breathed a sigh of relief too, having feared the loss of their regulars in a wholesale transfer of trade from the shop to online suppliers.
Ken Patel, national spokesman for Retailers Against Smuggling, and a Leicester retailer, commented: "If the proposals had gone ahead, the livelihoods of many of our shopkeepers would have been threatened. It would have been inevitable that shoppers would have been tempted to buy tobacco from outside the UK because the high levels of tax here make it much cheaper for them to do it that way."
Back to normal for the booze cruise