Consumers will stop buying pasties if Chancellor George Osborne goes ahead with his "tax" on the region's flagship dish, a survey has revealed.
Pollster YouGov's findings suggest pasty makers and shops will take an economic hit, confirming what many in the Westcountry had feared.
Its research also found more than two-thirds of Britons – 69 per cent – oppose plans to end the VAT exemption for hot savouries including pasties, pies and sausage rolls, which has been dubbed the "pasty tax".
Some 21 per cent reckon the sales tax – which stands at 20 per cent – should apply.
The survey of 1,567 people, which took place between March 30 and 31, also revealed that people would tend to buy a pasty cold if it meant escaping the additional charge.
The Chancellor's proposal means VAT will apply to "hot" baked goods – or those above "ambient" room temperature – when they are sold. Cold pasties escape the tax.
YouGov found that of people who buy hot pasties and sausage rolls regularly, 36 per cent will buy them cold instead to pay less. Some 32 per cent said they would simply stop buying the dish altogether.
The Government's consultation on effectively ending the exemption on baked goods in place since 1984 – which would add 50p to a £2.50 pasty – ends on May 4.
Mr Osborne faced ridicule when he explained to MPs that cold pasties would continue to be exempt from the tax, and suggested that was the way pasty-lovers could avoid VAT.
Tabloid newspapers used the remarks to evoke class warfare, drawing comparisons between the "let them eat cold pasties" sentiment and Marie Antoinette's infamous "let them eat cake" refrain to peasants during the French Revolution. The plan is to clamp down on supermarkets and chains using heaters to keep pasties, pies and sausage rolls "hot" but escaping VAT.
However, small bakeries selling goods straight from the oven have been caught in the crossfire, opponents say.
If the tax goes ahead, the impact on the region could be profound. Pasties provide employment for 13,000 people and generate £150 million annually for Cornwall alone.
MPs from all three major parties across the region have made clear their unease at the proposal, with Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs poised to vote against the Government in the Commons next week.
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How to support the Axe the Pasty Tax campaign
The Government’s consultation ends on May 4, 2012.
Submissions to the HM Revenue and Customs consultation, addressing the questions it poses, will help shape draft legislation.
The document is called “VAT – Addressing borderline anomalies” at www.hmrc. gov.uk/consultations/index.htm
There are other ways to register support. Signing the e-petition hosted by the Government at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/ petitions/31807 is one way, or you can join the “Say No To The Pasty Tax” group which can be found on Facebook.
Alternatively, you can write to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which is running the consultation. Address letters to David Roberts, VAT Projects Team, 3C/10, 100 Parliament Street, SW1A 2BQ.
And please also write to the WMN at Pasty Campaign, 17 Brest Road, Derriford, Plymouth PL6 5AA, with your views.