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How high are UK petrol prices compared to the rest of Europe?

The latest figures show how the high fuel tax take of twenty years ago has reduced over two decades

The UK is the ninth most expensive country in Europe when it comes to petrol prices, according to latest data issued by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and the EU.

After the recent global spike in fuel prices following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the figures show the price for premium unleaded averaged 143.7p in the UK in December. Drivers in the Netherlands had to cough up the most, with a 163.7p per litre price making their petrol the most expensive across the European market. Drivers in Denmark, Greece, France and Germany also all paid over 150p per litre in December, while the cheapest petrol prices were in Romania at 114.4p. Spanish drivers only paid around 133p, and UK pumps were also more expensive than Sweden’s which averaged 139.1p.

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While UK drivers regularly complain about the high treasury tax take on a litre of petrol, currently 53 per cent of the pump price, the data shows we’re mid-table in terms of percentage tax take when compared with European rivals. Finnish drivers put the higher fuel tax into government coffers last year at 59.3 percent, while drivers in Cyprus have a relatively modest tax burden of 42.5 percent on every litre.

The data compares UK average prices to averages provided by the European Union from its member countries, and highlights a downward trend in UK fuel taxation since the days of Tony Blair’s Labour administration. Back in 2003, UK petrol prices were the second highest in Europe, and the treasury under chancellor Gordon Brown raked off a shocking 77 per cent of the price of every litre in fuel. 

Under that Labour government, Finland’s drivers were the only Europeans paying more for fuel, although France and Germany were close behind.

By 2013, Conservative chancellor George Osborne had frozen UK fuel duty increases, and the rate of tax levied on a litre had fallen to 61 percent of the pump price which averaged 130.8p in December that year. Our prices then were similar to Germany’s, but Italians were paying 145.8p with the Scandinavian nations close behind. However, recent EU joiners like Romania were then paying as little as 102p per litre.

How high are fuel prices in your area? Tell us in the comments section below...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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