Gangster’s paradise: Brexit and cross border smuggling

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


Now we are in the countdown to Brexit, it is time to consider an underplayed (but likely) impact of stricter border controls – smuggling. This paper looks briefly at the demand-led nature of Organised Crime, and applies Dwight Smith’s well-known Enterprise Theory of Organised Crime (1980) to cigarettes and alcohol. The paper calculates that in 2015, using HMRC figures, VAT totalling £2.4bn was evaded on tobacco and alcohol products brought into the UK – about 13 per cent of the total market. Much of this was imported by “casual” smugglers – the person who sells cheap cigarettes at a car boot sale or in a pub carpark. Brexit will likely tighten border controls, and thus reduce the ability of “casual” smugglers to import contraband products. What Brexit will not do is reduce demand for these products. We know from Prohibition in the United States 1920s that reduction in legitimate supply and a constant demand is the perfect storm for Organised Crime. The National Crime Agency admits that existing border controls allow c20 tonnes of heroin and c25 tonnes of cocaine to enter the country each year, as well as a significant proportion of the 270 tonnes of cannabis that is consumed here. Budgets of these organisations are being cut, so there is even less chance of stopping up the gaps in our already porous border. Whilst nothing can be done to stop the inexorable slide towards Brexit, the paper suggests it is crucial that the Prime Minister works towards maintaining free movement of goods and people. Failure to demonstrate control could lead to a country in which organised crime has become the operator and facilitator of a high-profit, high-demand illicit enterprise, and the UK is reinvented as a Gangster’s Paradise.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017
EventBrexit in Context: History, Politics and Society - The University of Northampton
Duration: 3 Jul 2017 → …


ConferenceBrexit in Context: History, Politics and Society
Period3/07/17 → …


  • Brexit
  • organised crime
  • smuggling


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