The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has welcomed the decision by the Irish Government to freeze alcohol duty but has called on UK authorities to go further in support of the industry.

Irish ministers announced a freeze on duty in this week’s budget after successive increases in 2013 and 2014.

Finance minister Michael Noonan also raised the ceiling for excise relief for microbrewers – meaning they are entitled to a rebate of 50% on the duty paid on production under three million litres, up from two million previously.

The WSTA welcomed the moves but noted that per capita, UK consumers pay £154 in alcohol duty, or £10bn overall, the second highest in the EU and 2.8 times the per capita average of £55. 

Miles Beale, CEO of the WSTA, said: “Following the UK Government’s positive decision to abolish the alcohol duty escalator and freeze spirits duty in March, yesterday’s announcement of a freeze in alcohol duty for Irish consumers is further recognition that alcohol duty hikes are unfair on hard-pressed consumers and undermine an important industry, which makes a valuable contribution towards jobs and growth.

“UK consumers still pay very high levels of alcohol duty, compared to their European neighbours. Further action to rebalance the duty burden would benefit UK consumers and the wider hospitality industry by supporting jobs and growth. This is why we will shortly be launching an industry wide campaign calling for fairer tax on wine and spirits.”

Peter O’Brien, Chairman of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, said: “The drinks industry was hit with excise increases in Budget 2013 and 2014, so we welcome the Government’s decision not to increase excise on alcohol today and to increase excise relief for microbreweries.

“However, it must be stated that the current excise level in this country is uncompetitive and that while today’s announcement represents an important first step in supporting this industry, we would call on Government to reverse the excise increases of recent years in next year’s budget.”