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Dan Jago takes over as chairman as WSTA outlines Brexit strategy

Published:  14 September, 2016

Berry Bros. & Rudd MD Dan Jago will lead the WSTA through a tumultuous period in British politics and history and the association prepares to make Brexit its focus over the next two years.

Berry Bros. & Rudd MD Dan Jago will help to lead the WSTA through a tumultuous period in British history as the association prepares to make Brexit its focus over the next two years.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) made two announcements at its annual conference in The Royal Institute of Great Britain yesterday - that current chairman Denis O'Flynn will step down following his departure as MD of Pernod Ricard, and that the association's main focus over the next two years will be facilitating a smooth transition for the UK wine and spirits industry during a UK/EU breakaway.

In his opening address, the WSTA's CEO Miles Beale's message to the government was clear - to "let us help them".

Beale said: "As a body for both the wine and spirits industry, the WSTA is uniquely placed to speak for the sector. We need the government to accept our support and members' involvement."

He went on to outline the WSTA's three aims: to minimise disruption, exploit new opportunities for increased international trade with third countries and to argue for lower taxation, more support and for the government to accept help from the industry.

To facilitate its aims, the WSTA has created three new working groups which will help to make the transition as "smooth and painless" as possible.

Keynote speaker Lord Francis Maude was appointed in 1989 as the Minister for Europe and helped to negotiate entry to the single market as part of the Thatcher government.

He is eager to see Article 50 triggered so that the UK can start building its own trade agreements with the EU and the rest of the world.

In terms of what kind of deal the UK will end up with, he said there is a "bewildering array" of models on the shelf, adding: "We are not Norway, or Sweden. We're bigger and more integrated than the Nordic countries. We should end up with something more bespoke."

He also addressed the possible response from Eurosceptics in other EU countries such as France and Spain, and predicted their use of the UK's leave vote as a cue from which to push for reform.

"There are threatening voices coming out from Brussels saying the UK can't have it all. But this isn't from the business communities. German car manufacturers will still want to sell their cars to us as they did before."

"I expect the voice of calm, practical reason to prevail - but this doesn't mean the UK will get everything it wants," he added.

Speaking to trade members in the audience, he said the UK drinks industry is "complex" and that the needs of different aspects of the industry will not always coincide.

However, he urged the different parts of the industry to make its voices heard - echoing Beale's earlier comments.

He also addressed the feeling of the international community towards Britain, suggesting that the UK underestimates how it is seen around the world.

"We have a tendency to walk on eggshells, but I'm always astounded by the warmth of feeling towards the UK," he said.

"In no sector is this more pronounced than in the high-end food and drink sector. There will be twists and turns and battles, but your companies are well placed to exploit upcoming opportunities."