New ‘no-deal Brexit’ paperwork could hit UK wine industry with £70m bill

Government U-turn on 'red tape' on EU imports could add 10p to a bottle of wine, claims the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) says that new UK Government paperwork to be introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit will cost UK wine businesses £70 million.

Whitehall officials agreed earlier this year that the paperwork – which will deal with wines coming into the UK from the EU and for English wine exported to EU countries should Britain leave the EU without a deal – would be suspended for nine months from the point of no-deal, but has since made a U-turn.

This extra ‘red tape’ will see an estimated 500,000 new import certificates (known as VI-1 forms) required for wine coming into the UK, all accompanied by lab analysis. European wine producers will have to pay to file the VI-1 form and for laboratory tests for every consignment of wine sent to the UK, no matter how big or small.

The WSTA claims that the process will add an estimated 10p on a bottle of wine and see reduced choice for consumers. The burden, particularly on small wine producers that often stock independent wine merchants, is likely to be too great and in some cases wine supplies from smaller vineyards into the UK are expected to dry up.

The UK industry’s ties with the EU run deep with 55% of wine consumed in the UK is imported from the EU.

‘The Government’s failure to honour commitments to suspend the VI-1 forms is a real blow for the UK wine industry,’ said Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the WSTA . ‘The additional form filling and laboratory tests required for a no-deal scenario will add a massive burden on exporters and importers alike. Wine inspectors will find themselves drowning in paperwork and consignments are going to be held up by unnecessary additional red tape.’

This is the latest in a series of criticisms of the Government from the WSTA, with the trade body furious at wine duty hikes enforced by the Chancellor in February and the potential fall-out for the wine trade from a no-deal Brexit.

‘We can only conclude from this that Government doesn’t understand the value of the UK wine industry nor the value of imports in general to the UK economy,’ continued Beale.

‘Imports are worth roughly the same as exports to the UK economy. The burden of import certificates for wine will not simply fall on EU businesses – their pain will be shared by UK importers and ultimately UK consumers.  There is however a simple solution, suspend the introduction of pointless import certificates and use the time to develop modern import rules that are fit for purpose.’

Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark and the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Wines and Spirits added: ‘This U-turn is yet another example of Government failing to listen to industry experts and ultimately failing to back British business.  The worst case assumptions outlined in the Yellowhammer contingency plan are likely to become a reality if we end up with a disastrous no-deal Brexit.’