Calls to support pubs through Brexit talks

Campaigners are calling on election candidates to offer greater support to the beer and pub industries throughout upcoming negotiations to leave the EU.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 31/08/15 - Press - Drighlington Beer Festival - Drighlington CC, Drighlington, England - Carol Holmes serves up pints at the beer festival.

Politicians have a unique opportunity to maximise benefits, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has said, calling for a number of European restrictions to be removed. And, campaigners say, with discussions ongoing as part of Brexit negotiations, now is the time to make moves to safeguard and protect British pubs and breweries.

“The General Election and upcoming negotiations to leave the European Union give us a unique chance to rewrite some of the tax rules that have a significant impact on the price of a pint in the pub,” said chairman Colin Valentine. “We would like to see a range of measures introduced over the next Parliament to help reduce the huge tax burden facing UK brewers and publicans to ensure that pub-going and beer drinking remains an affordable activity.”

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Current business rates discounts for pubs in England should be made permanent and increased to £5,000, Camra argues, as well as extensions over duty reductions for low strength beers and for draught beer sold in pubs and clubs.

“Pubs are a uniquely British institution that showcase our nation’s brewing tradition while providing an essential community facility for those that use them,” said Mr Valentine. “It is therefore crucial that beer drinkers and pub-goers are not left behind when it comes to negotiating Britain’s future over the coming years.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed on Saturday than more than 14 per cent of the region’s pubs have closed in the past decade, with up to 22 per cent in city areas such as Leeds. The new figures, compiled by Camra, show that across Yorkshire, 694 pubs closed since 2007, with the value of the land they occupy now worth more as housing or shops.

One in six became housing, the figures show, while 12 per cent were demolished altogether.

In coming weeks a new amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Act is to come into force, closing a legal loophole allowing pubs to be demolished or converted to a range of uses without requiring planning permission.

This protection is absolutely needed, Camra has said, but more can be done to protect a threatened industry.

“Pubs are one of many things on the high street that need support,” said Camra regional director Kevin Keaveny. “The profit margins are very tight. And yet they provide that social cohesion to high streets and villages.”

A large part of the price of every pint is in tax, he said, while hikes in business rates can place a burden on small businesses.

“There’s a pub in York where their business rates went up 600 per cent this year, that causes no end of grief,” he said.

“A few pennies on the price of a pint makes a big difference. A little bit of common sense needs to be applied.

“This is what they need to stay viable. Not to become rich - no landlord is suggesting this would make him a millionaire overnight. They just need a fair crack of the whip.”