The move was widely praised by women’s rights campaigners as well as proponents of the country’s departure from the European Union.
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak had committed to ending the widely unpopular tax on tampons and pads in his budget statement in March but the change could only come into effect on Friday after Britain had finally left the economic orbit of the EU.
EU law had prevented member states from reducing the rate of value-added tax below 5%, meaning the period products were treated as luxury items and not essentials.
“Sanitary products are essential so it’s right that we do not charge VAT,” said Sunak. “We have already rolled out free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals and this commitment takes us another step closer to making them available and affordable for all women.” Britain officially left the bloc’s vast single market for people, goods and services at 11 p.m. London time on Thursday, giving it greater scope to set its own laws. A new U.K.-EU trade deal will bring new restrictions and red tape, but for British Brexit supporters, it means reclaiming national independence from the EU and its rules. They pointed to the abolition of the tampon tax as an early positive change arising from Brexit.
Britain’s treasury has previously estimated that the move will save the average woman nearly 40 pounds ($55) over her lifetime, “It’s been a long road to reach this point, but at last the sexist tax that saw sanitary products classed as nonessential, luxury items can be consigned to the history books,” said Felicia Willow, chief executive of women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society.