Brexit: Yellowhammer leak reinforces wine trade concerns

Wine merchants and producers are likely to be among those concerned by a leaked report suggesting that the UK government expects delays at ports following a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Customs delays could seriously hamper the movement of goods between the EU and the UK, according to a leaked Cabinet Office document on a ‘no-deal’ Brexit – as reported by The Times newspaper over the weekend.

The document, dubbed ‘Operation Yellowhammer’, also raised concerns about fuel supplies,

While shipments of fresh food and medicines were of wider concern, the news will likely add to existing disquiet within the wine trade about how a no-deal Brexit on 31 October might disrupt the supply chain – particularly ahead of the key Christmas selling period.

The EU accounts for 55% of the UK’s wine imports, making the matter an issue for both sides of the English Channel.

Italian farmers’ union Coldiretti again warned of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit yesterday (18 August), highlighting that Italian wine exports to the UK were worth €827m. It has previously called prime minister Boris Johnson the ‘enemy of Prosecco’.

A ‘no deal’ UK departure from the EU was the UK wine trade’s ‘worst case scenario’, said the Wine & Spirit Trade Association last month, following a survey of its members.

‘The biggest industry concern is being prevented from moving goods on and around 31 October 2019,’ it said in a detailed report that called on government to properly implement proposed temporary measures to ensure the flow of trade.

Several wine merchants and retailers bought in extra stocks ahead of the previous Brexit deadline, which was 31 March.

The WSTA has welcomed the UK government’s proposal to suspend tariffs on wine following a no-deal exit, as well as a planned nine-month exemption period for the VI-1 import certificates.

But the trade body last month called for more clarity on how customs and excise systems would work and it requested that the VI-1 exemption be formalised in secondary legislation.

However, the WSTA said that, while businesses would prefer a negotiated Brexit, most of its members had no-deal contingency plans in place.