British customs officers are continuing to clamp down on holiday-makers who bring alcohol back into the UK, despite recommendations from the European Commission that they relax their rules.
As the summer holiday period reaches its peak, customs officers are confiscating up to 250 cars every day after the Treasury ordered a crack down on the amount of cheap alcohol and tobacco flooding into the country.
But European Commissioner for the internal market, Frits Bolkestein, is said to have issued a warning about over-zealous customs officials after he visited Britain to defend the so-called "booze cruisers".
Mr Bolkestein has warned that if customs officers continue to ignore his warnings the British Government could end up in court and face a bill for compensation from thousands of holiday makers who have had their cars and alcohol seized.
Customs officers at British ports however, are determined to continue confiscating alcohol they believe will be sold illegally in the UK and say that until Mr Bolkestein launches an official investigation, they will carry on with their work.
The Government is spending £209m on tackling the problem of bootlegged alcohol and tobacco which will pay for an extra 1,000 officers as well as x-ray scanners and increased publicity.
Smuggling is estimated to cost the pub trade £150m every year and has contributed to the closure of many rural pubs. Industry leaders have been urging the Government to tackle the problem for many years.
Research within the trade has indicated that Britain's high rate of duty compared to nearby France is to blame.
Last month however, new customs and excise minister Paul Boateng said the Government had no intention of lowering duty, instead preferring to concentrate on stamping out smuggling at ports.
But now it seems this approach could be at risk if European officials continue to be disturbed by customs officers searching families and forcing them to make their own way home after their cars are impounded.
New strategy to tackle bootlegging (29 June 2001)