Introducing minimum pricing unit (MUP) on alcohol in the EU will likely restrict the single market, the Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled just before the Christmas break.
However, some member states are still considering following Scotland’s lead, and enacting such a measure.
On 23 December, the Court said that the Scottish legislation of imposing a minimum price for alcohol, initially to be set at 50p per unit, will “restrict the market”, and that the country instead could introduce a “tax measure designed to increase the price of alcohol”, but that in the end, the national court in Edinburgh should decide.
In Ireland, where the government has recently announced similar plans to Scotland’s MUP, at €1 a unit, Health Minister Leo Varadkar indicated that Ireland will proceed with the measure.
In Denmark, shortly after the ruling by the ECJ, the Danish Medical Association called on the government to set a minimum price on alcohol in order to help tackle youth binge drinking.
“Our great alcohol consumption is a serious societal problem and there is no doubt that it’s too cheap to buy alcohol in Denmark when you can get a bottle of hard liqueur for 70 Danish crowns (€9.38),” Andreas Rudkjøbing, the chairman of the association, told the Berlingske Tidende.
While Health Minister Sophie Løhde declined to introduce a MUP bill as “it would not have a big impact on public health”, alcohol analyst Henrik Rindom disagreed, saying that an MUP could have a big impact, but only if it was introduced across the EU.
“I would really like to see EU member states deciding together to raise the price on alcohol so that the cheapest litre of beer would at least cost the same as one litre of milk in the whole of the EU,” he said.
“But one country moving ahead alone will not make much difference when you can just cross a border to get a beer for €0.3. It would only increase border trade,” Rindom added.
It was the Scotch Whiskey Association which initially challenged the Scottish government’s MUP plans in 2012.
Paul Skehan, Director General of Spirits Europe, which represents the spirits and liqueur industry at EU level, said in a statement that “instead of wasting more time debating the illegality of MUP, we believe it would be far better to discuss useful, legal ways of tackling the alcohol-related issues that persist, not only in Scotland, but around the EU”.