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Call for reintroduction of tax-free shopping for EU visitors


An open letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Cheshire and Warrington’s tourist, business and council leaders pen open letter to Chancellor urging reintroduction of tax-free shopping for EU visitors to inject “hundreds of millions of pounds of income” into region’s economy

Tourist, business and council leaders in Cheshire and Warrington have penned an open letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling for the reintroduction of tax-free shopping for EU visitors – to create thousands of jobs and inject “hundreds of millions of pounds of income” into the region’s economy.

The letter, produced by the region’s official tourism body, Marketing Cheshire, with the support and signatures of sector and council partners, stresses the move would act as an  adrenaline-kick” to accelerate the upward post-pandemic growth in a visitor economy worth £3.41bn and attracting 50million visitors a year “at a time when operators are contending with cost pressures, staffing and skills shortages, and increasing global competition for tourism”.

Making the case the letter, sent on Wednesday 24th January states that restoring tax-free shopping for EU visitors in the Spring Budget would “provide an enormous stimulus” to the visitor economy across a region not just blessed with world class attractions like Chester Zoo, Tatton Park and muddled mazes of BeWILDerwood but diverse shopping destinations ranging from designer outlet Cheshire Oaks in Ellesmere Port to the historic 13th Century Chester Rows – home of the Three Old Arches in Bridge Street which believed to be the oldest surviving shop face in Britain.

The letter points to evidence from Visit Britain that shows that EU visitors are more likely to make repeated visits to the UK and travel outside of London than long haul visitors.

Urging the Chancellor to act, the Marketing Cheshire letter stresses that reintroducing VAT free shopping for EU visitors “would bring hundreds of millions of pounds of income into the North West, into Cheshire and Warrington, invigorating our economy, safeguarding employment and creating thousands of new jobs”.

The letter signed by Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council; Cllr Hans Mundry, Leader of Warrington Borough Council; Trevor Brocklebank, Vice Chair of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership and Chair of Marketing Cheshire; Eleanor Underhill, Chair of Destination Cheshire; Colin Potts, Chair of Destination Chester; Stephen Fitzsimons, Chief Executive, Warrington & Vale Royal Chamber of Commerce; Carl Critchlow, Chief Executive Officer, Chester BID; Ellis Wardle, Chair, Northwich Business Improvement District; Terry Hayward, Chief Executive, North Cheshire Chamber; Paul Colman, Chief Executive, South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Debbie Bryce, Chief Executive Officer, West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce; Joanna Davies, Chair, Wilmslow Business Improvement District and Dave McNicholl, Chair, Warrington Business Improvement District adds: As we are no longer part of the EU, we could become the only European country where 447million EU residents can shop tax-free, massively increasing our appeal to overseas visitors.” 

The open letter (download here) comes amid a national lobbying effort. The Association of International Retail believe abolishing VAT on shopping for EU visitors would be worth “an additional £10 billion pounds in spending by EU visitors annually” and generating £1bn additional VAT for the Treasury.

Carl Critchlow, Chief Executive of Chester BID said: “Chester BID proudly represents almost 500 diverse and wonderful businesses in a city that welcomes 8million visitors a year – including many from across Europe, so we would fully back anything that would boost the economy, jobs and strengthen our globally-renowned offering.”

And Trevor Brocklebank, Chair of Marketing Cheshire and Deputy Chair of Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership said, The Cheshire and Warrington visitor economy is continuing its upward growth and there is considerable work taking place in our region to improve our visitor offer, accessibility and promotion but it is clear that the Chancellor can accelerate that growth by restoring tax-fee shopping for our EU visitors.”