Syed Kamall, a London MEP (and spokesman on international trade), has received confirmation from the European Commission that the British Government is encouraging coach companies to spy on their customers.
One of Mr Kamall’s constituents was on a coach that was held for two-and-a-half hours while passengers were grilled about how much tobacco they were bringing back from Europe. Mr Kamall says that the UK Government is encouraging a "cooperative approach" between Customs and coach companies, and has chosen to interpret guidelines about how much tobacco an individual may bring back in the strictest manner possible. Moreover, coach companies are handing over lists of their passengers to Customs before the coach departs.
Mr Kamall commented:
"Once again the British Government is treating honest people like criminals just for taking advantage of their single market rights.
The Labour government and Labour MEPs have consistently attacked the cross-Channel shopper and it is high time it stopped. The government should use its resources to tackle genuine smugglers of narcotics, people and counterfeit goods, not to abuse shoppers.
Customs Officers have enormous powers yet there seems to be little need for them to justify their actions. The principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ does not seem to apply to cross-channel shoppers. We cannot blame the coach companies who probably fear being targeted by Customs if they do not comply.
The rights of consumers to transport goods across borders is the most important benefit of EU membership yet our rights are being trampled by overzealous enforcement at our ports."