Treasury could have broken the law promoting return of duty-free following a no-deal Brexit

The Treasury's GIF about duty-free shopping. Photograph: Twitter.

The Treasury's GIF about duty-free shopping. Photograph: Twitter. - Credit: Archant

The Treasury has been mocked for promoting claims that there will be a return of duty-free shopping if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said that those visiting EU countries would no longer have to pay duties on cigarettes and alcohol purchased at airports, with the Treasury's social media account now producing GIFs to highlight the remarks.

The official tweet said: "Duty-free shopping with the EU is coming back, if we leave without a deal.

"People travelling to EU countries will be able to buy beer, spirits, wine and tobacco without duty being applied in the UK."

The government was quickly criticised for posting the tweet, with others asking whether it had broken one of its laws by promoting cheaper cigarettes.

Sajid Javid on The Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: BBC.

Sajid Javid on The Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: BBC. - Credit: Archant

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The law states: "A person who in the course of a business publishes a tobacco advertisement, or causes one to be published, in the United Kingdom is guilty of an offence."

David Hemming asked: "The law says we won't leave without a deal - so why are you telling me this? Who is authorising you to spend money on effectively promoting a situation that will only happen if the government breaks the law?"

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Ben Chisholme said: "Are we supposed to celebrate this given smoking kills 1000s and costs the UK £12.6bn/yr*, and alcohol misuse contributes to 200 different health conditions*? (*govt's own figures)"

Rhoda Miller tweeted: "Oh well, that so makes up for our loss of FOM, our international standing in the world, the absence of our life-saving medicines. Once we pay for, and get our visas and expensive health insurance sorted, we can buy cheaper fags! Brexit is great!"

Another responded: "What kind of message is this to send to people? Two of the products that are the cause of the worst health problems in the U.K. are now cheaper? Stop it."

Twitter user @bonehousewasps enquired: "Can you get medical isotopes duty-free? Asking for many, many friends."

The team behind the Remaniacs podcast wrote: "This is despicable, tissue-thin Brexit propaganda. Thoughts and prayers to the poor civil servants forced to promote this tripe. You know it's wrong."

Health secretary Matt Hancock was asked how his vision for health and social care, including England becoming "smoke-free" by 2030, could be squared with "differences in approach" by the Treasury.

He appeared unimpressed by the post, telling an audience: "We've got to keep winning this argument.

"Look, I don't think that the return of duty free was really seen from within a public health context, shall we say, before publication.

"Certainly, I didn't see it before publication but - leave that one with me."

Professor John Newton, Public Health England's director of health improvement, said: "Accessibility and affordability makes a huge difference to consumption of tobacco and alcohol and that will remain our advice to government."

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