In its submission to the coalition government’s consultation on its Alcohol Strategy, the WSTA accuses the Government of failing to make a realistic assessment of the wider impacts of increasing the cost of alcohol on the economy and crime rates.
The trade believes proposals for a minimum unit price of alcohol will lead to an increase in bootleg alcohol sales, fake alcohol production, theft and cross-border sales.
Chief Executive Miles Beale said: “There is a real risk that this illegal activity will increase if alcohol prices are forced up even more. Consumers in the UK already pay some of the highest prices in Europe for alcohol and further price rises could result in some serious unintended consequences that the Government has failed to consider.”
He said a 50p minimum unit price would mean a bottle of wine costs a minimum of £4.88 in the UK, compared to around £1.89 in France.
He fears that consumers could turn their backs on UK retailers in favour of cheaper prices across the channel.
The WSTA claims that cross-border purchasing in the Republic of Ireland rose 25% in 2008 when drinkers flocked to Northern Ireland to avoid legislation that increased the price of alcohol south of the border.
The WSTA also believes UK consumers will be exposed to unsafe bootleg liquor, putting their health at risk.
Beale added: “The Government's plans to set higher alcohol prices could increase illicit, unregulated sales of alcohol which will risk harming consumers and depriving the Treasury of revenue. It will also have a massive detrimental effect on the UK economy, making British businesses more vulnerable as they lose out to cheaper, and sometimes illegal, sources.”
Meanwhile Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson hit out at his party’s proposals, branding them “regressive”.
He said: “I think there are better ways of dealing with this. It’s very regressive. It hits poorest people hardest.”