On Monday Ireland’s Health Minister regrettably signed into law new, far-reaching Ireland-only labelling rules for alcoholic drinks, including beers, sold in the country. The rules include the labelling of grams of alcohol in the product (on top of the ABV) and logos and health messages that exist nowhere else in the EU single market.
It is extremely disappointing that the Minister has taken this step despite major concerns raised by no less than 13 EU countries and 10 non-EU countries on the impact this will have to trade both within the EU single market and with third countries. These concerns have been raised in formal procedures within the EU institutions and the World Trade Organisation, with the latter process not even finalised yet. Whilst no one contests Ireland’s legitimate right to implement national alcohol policies, all countries have pleaded for an approach that is less disruptive to trade.
This neglect of the well-balanced concerns from 23 countries comes on top of other infringements including circumventing existing EU harmonised legislation on the provision of calorie and alcohol content information and a complete disregard for the fact the European Commission has committed to coming forward with a harmonised EU-wide approach to health warnings for alcoholic beverages.
By creating this barrier to trade, Ireland is forcing brewers to decide whether to shoulder the additional costs and bear the administrative and logistical burden of an Ireland-specific labelling regime or simply to exit the Irish market altogether.
The three-year lead-in time for businesses to adapt is of limited comfort to the brewers who have to take this hard decision and the Irish consumers who will inevitably find themselves with a reduced selection of beers from which to choose.
We call upon the WTO to step in and the European Commission to intervene and protect the Single Market and the EU’s own legislative processes to harmonise legislation and create legal certainty for businesses operating in the EU.
About The Brewers of Europe:
Based in Brussels, The Brewers of Europe brings together national brewers’ associations from 29 European countries and provides a voice to support the united interests of Europe’s 10,000+ breweries. The Brewers of Europe promotes the positive role played by beer and the brewing sector in Europe and advocates the creation of the right conditions to allow brewers to continue to freely, cost-effectively and responsibly brew and market beer across Europe. Follow us on Twitter and visit our website.