Today is the 40th birthday of the Customs Union. One of the things I find when you talk to people about the EU is that some of the benefits have been around for so long that people take them for granted and only look at the immediate (true of anything I suppose). But without the Customs Union, that great British tradition – the booze cruise – would never exist. You would have to pay much more in Sainsbury’s for that nice Rioja that you had on holiday in Spain, or that smelly French cheese (yum!). You’d have to pay duties on anything over a certain level that you brought back from Europe – I know from being on rue Haute in Brussels on a Sunday that there are a lot of antique buyers that come over from the UK. The Customs Union goes further than that though – there’s a strong fight now against counterfeited goods. This may bring bags and clothes to mind, and seem inocuous enough, but it also includes things like medicines or toothpastes, where counterfeits can be very damaging to people’s health.
So happy birthday to the booze cruise and many happy returns (hic!)