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Why you’ll be paying more for some booze from today  

Welcome to Tuesday’s Early Edition from i.

The prime minister previously hailed it as “the most radical simplification of alcohol duties for over 140 years”. Today, most wines, spirits and some beer will increase in price as a freeze on alcohol duty comes to an end, and the government implements post-Brexit rules on booze. It means drinks will be taxed according to their alcohol content, instead of their type, which may help direct consumers towards lighter options. But it has also prompted criticisms of ‘drinkflation’ where people end up paying the same money for a product containing less alcohol, and warnings from some industry bodies that it will add pressure to them and consumers. The Scotch Whisky Association described the duty increase as “a hammer blow for distillers and consumers,” and said it could help push inflation back up. We’ll take a look at what changes come in today and what it means, after the news.

Today’s news, and why it matters

Senior Tories have condemned Rishi Sunak after he said intends to “max out” the North Sea oil and gas reserves in a further example of his administration backsliding on the environment. Chris Skidmore, a former energy minister who chaired the Independent Government Review on Net Zero, warned the move puts the UK “on the wrong side of history”. The Tory MP said: “This is the wrong decision at precisely the wrong time, when the rest of the world is experiencing record heatwaves.”

Advanced artificial intelligence should be banned from the UK’s weapons arsenal as it poses an “unfathomable risk” to our species, could turn against its human operators and kill civilians indiscriminately, parliament has been warned. In a chilling six-page dossier to a House of Lords committee, an expert contributor granted anonymity says the “breathtaking” speed of AI technology poses a major threat to human life, particularly in the defence industry.

A Conservative MP has called for the numbers of migrants being housed on a barge in Dorset to be slashed if fire safety fears are not addressed. Asylum seekers are due to arrive on the barge, which is moored at Portland Port, within weeks, the Home Office said, as No 10 confirmed fire safety checks are being carried out in the coming days.

Nigel Farage says private bank Coutts has offered to reinstate his personal and business accounts. The row over the closure of Mr Farage’s account has already led to the resignation of resignation of Natwest chief executive Dame Alison Rose and Coutts boss Peter Flavel. A NatWest spokesperson told i it could not discuss individual customer circumstances.

A group of parents who claim to be owed thousands of pounds by a private football academy are calling on the FA to investigate an industry they describe as “the Wild West”. i has spoken to multiple parents who claim to be owed as much £3,000 each by First Touch 04 Academy for overseas football holidays that never materialised.

Three key questions over the changes to drinks prices today:

What’s going up, and what’s going down? Drinks with 3.5% alcohol or less will be taxed at a lower rate, meaning lighter beers and wines will be protected from the changes. Some other drinks, including sparkling wines, pre-mixed gin and tonic, and beer bought in pubs, will also go down slightly in price. The duty charged on draught pints and ciders will be cut , which Rishi Sunak hailed as beneficial to “thousands of businesses across the country”. But one analyst, Simon Hales, from investment bank Citi, told the FT: “What we’ll see is consumers end up paying the same prices they have been for a product with less alcohol in it. Either way, the consumer ends up getting a rawer deal, with the exception of a small benefit for draught product in pubs.” Meanwhile, other drinks will be subject to the end of a freeze on alcohol duty, and will increase by inflation at 10.1%. That means a duty rise of 44p on a bottle of wine, which is likely to translate to 53p for consumers when combined with VAT. Wine containing an alcohol volume of more than 15% will go up by about 98p. Cream sherry will go up more than £1 a bottle, while a bottle of port will go up by more than £1.50.

What’s it got to do with Brexit? When he was unveiling the Budget back in March, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he would “do something that was not possible when we were in the EU and significantly increase the generosity of Draught Relief, so that from 1 August the duty on draught products in pubs will be up to 11p lower than the duty in supermarkets, a differential we will maintain as part of a new Brexit pubs guarantee.” He added: “British ale may be warm, but the duty on a pint is frozen.” The PM said: “We have taken advantage of Brexit to simplify the duty system, to reduce the price of a pint, and to back British pubs.” The “Brexit pubs guarantee” was aimed at giving punters cheaper pints. The draught beer measure would not have been possible without Brexit, because under EU rules alcohol duty does not allow differentiation by package type, whereas now the government can classify drinks by the amount of alcohol they contain. If they had attempted to make these changes under EU rules, the Chancellor would have had to cut duty on all beer, including that sold in bottles or cans in supermarkets, as well as draught pints. The Treasury says more than 38,000 UK pubs will benefit from today’s tax relief. Some in the hospitality industry have raised hopes that the measure will give a much-needed boost to pubs, but many others remain skeptical. Read more about the Brexit pubs guarantee here.

What does the wider industry say? The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) says the tax increase on packaged beer will add an extra £225m of costs per year across the industry. Unsurprisingly, many are unhappy at the changes. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WTSA) previously said businesses and consumers were being “punished”. At the time of the Budget, Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the WSTA, said: “It will further fuel inflation. It will heap more misery on consumers. And it will damage British business, especially those in the hospitality supply chain, who are still trying to recover from the pandemic.” Yesterday, Graeme Littlejohn of the Scotch Whisky Association said the increases would “continue to fuel inflation”. He added: “Rather than choosing to back an industry which the UK Government promised to support through the tax system, the Government has chosen to impose the largest duty increase in almost half a century.”

Wine consumers could face increased costs from today (Photo: Getty Images)

 Around the world

Donald Trump has increased his Republican primary lead despite facing a number of criminal charges. The former US president has 54% among Republicans, while Ron DeSantis, his closest rival, only on 17%, the latest poll shows.

A giant metal dome that washed up on a Western Australian beach has been confirmed as a piece of space junk. India’s space agency spokesman told the BBC it was from one of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles, but said it was up to Australia to decide what to do with it.

The Wagner Group is already circling post-coup Niger as Russia seeks influence across Sahel, writes Michael Day. “This is the nightmare scenario for Western powers who had bet on Bazoum and Niger as a new security anchor for the Sahel,” one expert said.

The actor Angus Cloud, who starred in the HBO series Euphoria, has died aged 25. His publicist Cait Bailey said the actor died at his family home in California, on Monday. No cause of death was given. Mr Cloud’s family said goodbye to “an artist, a friend, a brother and a son,” and said his death came shortly after that of his own father.

A French daredevil known for scaling skyscrapers has fallen to his death from the 68th floor of a residential building while carrying out his latest stunt in Hong Kong. Remi Lucidi, 30, had been climbing outside the 721ft (220m) Tregunter Tower in Hong Kong’s wealthy Mid-Levels area.

 Watch out for…

 tonight’s moon, which will be slightly closer to Earth, making it appear larger and brighter. Today’s event is known as a Sturgeon supermoon. 

 Thoughts for the day

Carbon capture isn’t just a disaster for the environment, it’s entirely unworkable. The Acorn project announced by Rishi Sunak is a dangerous flight of fantasy, explains James Dyke.

Single people have always known we have to pay more – but that is becoming impossible. After spending so much time in debt, I find myself teetering on the edge of it again, reveals Poorna Bell.

At 72 I was raving it up at Womad – the old me was reawakened. We found bonhomie and hope among strangers, such a very rare thing these days, writes Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

Femi Kuti and The Positive Force headline on the main stage during Womad Festival (Photo by C Brandon/Redferns)

 Culture Break

 I’m a 36-year-old man who loves matching outfits with my Ken doll. Grown-up Barbie lovers are used to being teased – but Greta Gerwig’s film has changed all of that, reveals Gwendolyn Smith.

From left, Barbie enthusiasts Phat Vi, Clare Rawling and Cassie Edwards (Photos: Phat Vi, Clare Rawling, Cassie Edwards)

 The Big Read

Why Brexit has made it cheaper for businesses to pollute in the UK. The Government has effectively made it cheaper for firms to pollute in Britain in what some see as another anti-green move by Rishi Sunak’s administration, writes Stuart Ritchie.

Environmental campaigners in Westminster earlier this month (Photo: Guy Smallman/Getty)


Kylian Mbappe transfer: Chelsea’s Todd Boehly contacts PSG personally to negotiate sensational move. Mbappe’s wages would break the bank for any Premier League club, but if one owner can find a way it’s Boehly, writes Pete Hall.

Boehly is exploring a loan or permanent move for Mbappe (Photos: Getty)

 Something to brighten your day

A zoo in China has denied its bear enclosure is populated by people in furry costumes after a video went viral appearing to show one of the creatures on hind legs in a human stance playing to the crowd. “Some people think I stand like a person,” said a post on the zoo’s social media account, written from the bear’s perspective. “It seems you don’t understand me very well.” That definitely clears that up, then.

Video of the bears is circulating on social media with users claiming the animals are humans in costume (Photo: Twitter)

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