The UK fuel tax cuts designed to help motorists through a price crisis are among the least generous in Europe, the RAC has said. The motoring organisation says of the 13 European countries to reduce fuel duty, only Luxembourg has reduced tax on petrol by less than the 5p-per-litre cut announced by Rishi Sunak in March.

With the war in Ukraine sparking a gigantic rise in oil prices, fuel prices have been increasing rapidly throughout the first half of 2022. As a result, chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed a 5p-per-litre cut in fuel duty on both petrol and diesel in a bid to keep prices under control. However, prices still hit record levels this summer, and the RAC says the government has done far less to stem increases than others in Europe.

According to the RAC figures, Luxembourg was the only state to cut petrol tax by less than the UK, introducing a cut equivalent to 4.52p per litre in April, whereas Germany and Italy both cut petrol tax by the equivalent of more than 20p per litre. It’s a similar story for diesel, with only Croatia taking less off the price of a litre than the UK government, with a cut worth 4.5p per litre.

Petrol station

As an alternative to cutting fuel duty, governments of other countries in the EU have introduced fuel discounts, with the Spanish government taking 20 cents (roughly 17p) off the price of a litre of petrol. France, meanwhile, has done a similar trick, cutting prices by 18 cents (or around 15p) per litre.

Even private companies have taken action, with TotalEnergies in France and BP Spain offering discounts of up to 40 cents (about 33p) per litre. And of the 15 EU states that haven’t taken steps to reduce the cost of fuel since the war in Ukraine saw prices sky-rocket, the RAC says all but six already charged less fuel duty than the UK, even after the 5p-per-litre cut announced in March.

Motorists fuelling up at petrol station in Blackburn Lancashire UK

“This analysis lays bare an uncomfortable truth for the UK government,” said RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams. “Compared to other European countries, it’s pretty much done the least to support drivers through the current period of record high fuel prices. The result is the UK being one of the most expensive places to fill up and putting it above other countries that have historically charged more for fuel than UK retailers do, including France and the Netherlands.

“Perhaps even more frustratingly, those countries that have not cut tax on fuel at all since March – including Greece and Austria – are still cheaper than the UK. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some other nations have done a huge amount with Portugal cutting duty an incredible seven times since March, and France and Spain both offering significant discounts on fuel at the checkout.

“The cost-of-living crisis shows no signs of coming to an end anytime soon and it’s frustrating that repeated calls to the UK government for more support are falling on deaf ears. UK pump prices might be finally starting to fall, but the reductions so far are too little and too late, given the massive wholesale price drops retailers have been benefiting from for nearly two months. Drivers, many of whom depend heavily on their vehicles, need more help and they need it now.”