The European Commission's compromise deal over a small 4.5% rise in minimum excise duty rates for alcohol across the European Union (EU) looks in trouble after the European Parliament's plenary today rejected the agreement.

This had been negotiated with the EU Council of Ministers, representing member states, and was later supported by the EP economic and monetary affairs committee. Parliament's powers over taxation are purely advisory, but its lawyers think that MEPs will now have to make an alternative proposal before the council can vote on the 4.5% hike.

This would delay a final decision to September and beyond, parliament officials told "This is a highly unusual situation," said one. "This was not a legislative resolution, just a rejection of an earlier proposal."