A group of wine industry professionals demonstrated yesterday and lodged a petition at 10 Downing Street in protest of further tax increases on wine included in the upcoming UK budget.
Organised by Catherine Monahan, managing director of Clink! Wines, the protesters included about 50 members of the trade and consumer wine press, joined by several wine club participants and other civilians.
They marched, wearing t-shirts and holding placards featuring Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling’s face over the slogan ‘Darling, haven’t you had enough?’, and urged the government to roll the duty back from £1.57 to £1 a bottle.
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The editors of trade journals Harpers Wine & Spirit Weekly and Off Licence News then joined Monahan to deposit their petitions at 10 Downing Street, home of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
‘It was a bit scary because we were searched, but it was a very memorable moment,’ said Monahan.
‘We felt were doing something critical for the industry, presenting a united front instead of just sitting back and complaining. We felt we could influence change.’
Monahan said she was motivated by the realisation, when launching a new French wine brand Le Beast, that out of the average £4.12 ($5.92) paid for a bottle of wine in the UK, the majority – £2.25 – goes to UK and EU tax, whereas a mere £0.25 goes into the winemaking and £0.37 to grape growers.
‘The wine industry is an easy target but raising taxes on a struggling industry cannot be the only way to raise revenue,’ she said.
‘And it’s clearly not the solution to addressing the social problems associated with binge drinking, either.’
While pleased that she was able to garner support for the cause, Monahan said she was disappointed that more members of the trade didn’t take part.
‘This has never been done before. It was not a publicity stunt, this issue is important to everyone – agents, retailers, growers – we’re talking about peoples’ lives and livelihoods,’ she said.
‘I realise the timing was inconvenient – there’s a lot going on this week. Several people wrote and told me they would have come but are at ProWein. We’re going to do another protest and try to get a lot more trade and consumers on board.’
The UK government imposed two tax increases in 2008, and has written into the next budget, due 22 April, an option to apply an additional 2%-above-inflation tax ‘escalator’.
For more information, see http://www.apoundabottle.co.uk/
Written by Maggie Rosen