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Burberry Chairman challenges PM over "spectacular own goal" over UK tourist tax

Sophie Smith
24 April 2023

Burberry Chairman Gerry Murphy has challenged UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over the decision to remove tax-free shopping for tourists.

Murphy said that the "spectacular own goal" has made Britain the "least attractive" shopping destination in Europe.

The discussion took place at Business Connect conference in London, which gave 200 high-profile CEO's the opportunity to question the Prime Minister.

"It's great to see the Conservative government obviously more business friendly than some predecessor," Murphy began.

He added: "It is somewhat perverse that on the day that we left the single market, a decision by, I think it was by you as chancellor, to remove the VAT refund for tourists made the UK the least attractive shopping destination in Europe.

"Leaving the EU has had a significant friction effect on trade, hopefully not forever, but it is the case today that it is a dragon growth. So, we would ask you to look at this specific one. This is a spectacular own goal that can be reversed by a decision from you or from the chancellor."

In response, Sunak declined to speak about tax policy but said there were "good reasons" for the change. He added that he would look at the data to "see if things are panning out as we expected to, or not".

The end of tax-free shopping for international tourists in the UK, which allowed oversees visitors to obtain refunds on goods bought in Britain, was scrapped when the UK left the European Union in January 2021.

It was later planned to be reinstated as part of the mini-budget in September 2022 but dropped again in the mid-October budget reversal.

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