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Trading in international waters watch

    • Thread Starter

    I am from Hartlepool, on the North East coast, which is currently the focus of quite an important legal issue, check out the link for information:


    It concerns an off license that is operating out of British geography and thus in international waters.

    Essentially, these are the issues. The Government think that the goods bought from the vessel should be duty liable, but thisis a claim rebutted by the two operators who say that they already paid duty when they bought the goods in Germany.

    What do people think?

    For anyone who has studied international law or maritime law, what is your view on this? The entrepeneurs think they have a 'strong' legal challenge to any confcation by the government, which is a credible claim onsidering that one of the men was a senior lecturer in maritime law at John Moore's Unversity in Liverpool.

    Their legal challenge will mount on a claim that he Government's stance is in conflict with EU law of freedom of trade.

    For future law students, this case may be one to watch in EU law (it may be discussed in future lectures), as was the Thoburn case when I started university.

    Thanks for the heads up on this. I will have a read then post my thoughts (as a soon-to-be law student).


    It's really hard to say, because the items have already had duty paid on them when the off-licence people bought them from Germany and it'd seem that the customers are in effect buying products from within the EU.

    An official in another BBC article says 'We have made it clear to him and the general public that anyone who buys goods in international waters, but who does not actually travel to another country has to pay excise duty. Anyone who fails to do this, or assists anyone to escape paying duty, is committing an offence.'

    I thought that when you bring tobacco and alcohol to the UK you have to declare it.

    When people such as myself buy a Region 1 DVD (from US/Canada), we are subject to pay customs if it is over the equivalent of £18, and I might as well say 'we suffer so let these people suffer', but it's not the same situation.

    Anyway, since the boat is not in territory covered by the EU, I think that the usual customs rules apply.

    I think that the boat sellers are correct in what they say, in so far as they have indeed purchased goods in Germany and as such they are duty paid. The buyers, therefore, are not breaking any law as far as I can see.

    However, as is my understanding, "international waters" does not constitute "EU". So as far as I can see, the whole "EU free trade" argument falls down, because they are not selling the goods in the EU, they are selling thm internationally, which might as well be the USA, Australia, Russia or Uganda. It doesn't matter. The point is, the boat is now selling goods in international waters and it could be argued that any customer travelling to the boat, purchasing goods and bringing them back to England, may equally be considered to be flying outside the EU, and therefore the normal restrictions on customs and duty goods (such as only 200 cigarettes) should apply.

    It seems that the boats owners are in a sticky situation as they are not breaking any law, but prospective customers might be if they fail to pay, or indeed evade, customs and excise duties.

    Law aside, the claimed motive behind this scheme is absurd - apparently, the UK government has made alcohol and tobacco so expensive that people on benefits can't afford them and this is who it was aimed at.
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