Calais could be turned into a massive duty free zone after Brexit, heralding the return of the British booze cruise.
Authorities in the French port are lobbying to be allowed to offer visitors tax breaks on alcohol, cigarettes and food from next year.
Mayor Natacha Bouchart wants a return to Brits crossing the Channel to stock up on cheaper goods in a bid to revive the local economy.
She is also considering plans that could allow visitors to reclaim VAT on hotel stays and restaurant meals.
Several million Britons used to make day trips across the Channel every year during the heyday of the booze cruise, local officials said.
But duty free shopping ended in 1999 following the creation of the EU’s single market.
The UK is set to begin to hammer out a trade deal with the EU during the current transition period and duty free shopping could return.
Ms Bouchart’s deputy, Philippe Mignonet, said: ‘Our mayor is fighting for the whole town of Calais to benefit from the same duty-free rules as the ferries.’
The fortunes of Calais rely on the smooth flow of people and goods across the English Channel.
The mayor’s initiative reflects the growing doubts in the town over whether a future trade deal will maintain the single market’s zero-tariff, friction-free movement of goods across the Britain-EU border.
Officials in Calais are now lobbying the French government to create a duty free zone for British shoppers to cover the entire area.
Mr Mignonet said junior budget minister Gerald Darmanin had so far pushed back against the proposed city-wide duty exemptions for alcohol and tobacco in the town centre because of smuggling concerns.
He added: ‘I don’t think they’ll budge on those’ but he continued that it could be applied to goods such as chocolate, perfumes and electronic goods.
Calais port is currently undergoing a £636,000,000 expansion to double its capacity from early 2021.
Port director Jean-Marc Puissesseau said a return of duty free would be ‘very good’ adding: ‘Since the UK will become a third country again, it is possible that duty free will return.
‘This would lead to more crossings of people wishing to buy cheaper alcohol or cigarettes than in England.’
The UK ended its 47-year relationship with the EU last week and now has until December 31 to negotiate a trade accord that will determine what tariffs, if any, Britain and the EU levy on each other’s goods, and caps to duty free commerce.