Wales: MUP Delayed Until 2020
Plans to implement minimum unit price (MUP) in Wales have been delayed till at least 2020. Another EU member state has held up the process. MUP was supposed to come into effect this summer.
Portugal intervened and issued a ‘detailed opinion’ on MUP in Wales, which is a method used by member states to object to other EU country’s plans.
Portugal is one of the 5 countries along with France, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria, which objected to Scotland’s MUP in 2013. But Scotland is implementing MUP since 2018.
In Scotland’s case the countries argued that MUP breached European free trade law by discriminating against imported alcohol products – saying the policy was illegal, unfair and ineffective.
After years of legal argument the UK’s Supreme Court gave the go-ahead in 2017, saying the law did not breach EU regulations. Since implementation of MUP, alcohol sales are declining in Scotland.
Wales MUP will not be in effect till early 2020
New regulations concerning products brought in by EU member states are subject to a “standstill period” of at least three months, but because Portugal has issued a “detailed opinion” it means that has been extended to August 21.
The Welsh Government has to respond.
As a consequence, ministers cannot table the planned MUP regulation to the assembly until the autumn.
EU countries can restrict imports on public health grounds but only if it does not constitute a “means of arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade between member states”.
Ministers believe tackling alcohol harm could save one life a week and prevent 1,400 hospital admissions a year.
MUP is an effective policy measure to reduce alcohol consumption and related harm. This was demonstrated by Scotland, who experienced the lowest alcohol sales in the past 25 years after the introduction of MUP.
According to the new alcohol country fact sheets by WHO Europe, in the UK alcohol-attributable fractions is highest for liver cirrhosis at 71%, followed by injuries at 23.2% and cancer by 6.1%.
When it comes to youth alcohol use, almost half of males between 15 to 19 years (49.9%) and almost two thirds of males between 20 to 24 year (61%) binge on the substance.
Currently, Scotland is the only country within the UK to have implemented MUP. This is a life saving policy measure, derailing it will only lead to increased harm.