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Brewers say failure to cancel beer duty threatens their survival | Business

Brewers have been dealt a “devastating” blow after the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, refused to cancel monthly beer duty payments, prompting warnings that thousands of jobs are at risk.

Small breweries and trade bodies said the requirement for them to pay thousands of pounds in beer duty this month threatened their survival, given that off-licences and pubs have been ordered to shut, choking off their means of getting to market.

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) said the payment, due on Wednesday, could be anything from £5,000 for the average small craft brewer to £500,000 for a larger business such as Suffolk-based Adnams.

Jaega Wise, the head brewer at Wild Card Brewery in east London, said: “A huge part of our revenue comes from supplying the hospitality sector.

“We now have zero orders coming in from trade. Our income has disappeared virtually overnight. Duty relief would really help this devastated sector and potentially save thousands of jobs.”

What do the new restrictions involve?

People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:

  • Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.

The SIBA chief executive, James Calder, who warned on Monday there was only 24 hours left to save many small breweries, called Sunak’s decision “incredibly disappointing”.

Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said she had urged Sunak to freeze the payments “to allow businesses to use funds to invest in their survival.

“The decision not to act on duty is extremely disappointing. Make no mistake, this is a huge blow to Britain’s world-class brewing industry that has been devastated in the last week.

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“Cancelling the duty payment due on March 25th would have freed up cash for many hard-squeezed pub and brewing businesses, helping them get through this difficult period whilst saving jobs.

“Brewers are being encouraged to phone the HMRC’s helpline if they have concerns over paying their duty bill, but with answer rates on the helpline so low, it is a lottery as to those who get through and receive the additional support they need at this time.”

The Guardian has approached the Treasury for comment.

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