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WSTA outlines "the road ahead" for Brexit ministers

Published:  01 December, 2016

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) is calling for Brexit ministers to let the drinks industry lead negotiations to ensure the best possible free trade agreements with the EU andfurther afield. 

At a meeting with the secretary for state for Defra, Andrea Leadsom MP, yesterday (Nov 30) chief executive Miles Beale presented the WSTA's Brexit Policy Paper demonstrating that the wine and spirit industry is "united, has clear objectives and is uniquely well placed to advise government". 

The WSTA Brexit policy paper, named "The road ahead for the wine and spirit industry", has been drawn up to establish how best to meet and exploit the challenges of leaving the EU. 

Some of the asks from the WSTA's Brexit Policy Paper

·         Minimal disruption to existing flows of trade in wines and spirits and exploit Brexit opportunities for enhancing international trade.

·         Government must ensure tariff and quota free access to the EU market.

·         Work with trading partners to develop model agreements with EU and third countries ahead of Article 50.

·         The UK should immediately join the World Wine Trade Group.

·         Keep EU definitions for most spirit drinks and most of the current production rules for wine.

·         Use the Great Repeal Bill to remove restrictions whilst maintaining the integrity of categories and brands.

·         Establish a UK system for existing protected designations of origin (PDO's) and revise current protection for English wine and sparkling wine as well as a new protection for British gin.

·         Ensure that UK vine growing and wine making continue to be classified as agriculture and allow unrestricted planting of new vineyards.

·         And for any future controls on the movement of people to ensure continued access to a skilled workforce: winemakers, pickers and the hospitality sector.

The WSTA has also set out their top ten target Third country trading partners to help government to secure tariff and quota free access.

In addition, the WSTA also called for British gin to be given protected status in recognition of its quality and global appeal.

Gin is the second most traded UK spirit after whisky, with three out of every four bottles of gin imported round the world coming from the UK.

The meeting was also used to stress the importance of the UK wine industry to the British economy, worth £2.8bn in imported goods and £440m in exports.

The UK is the largest per capita importer of wine in the world, with France being the UK's largest wine trading partner by value, worth £1bn in trade in 2015.  

The UK imports more Champagne than any other country making us a crucial trading partner for the French. 

The WSTA has previously called on the government to "let us help them", as ministers remain tight-lipped over plans for the industry as they devise Britain's exit from the EU.

"For a genuinely global industry like wine and spirits, Brexit will bring both challenges and opportunities," said Beale. 

"We understand why government want to keep their Brexit cards close to their chest, but as an industry we hold some very valuable cards and can help ministers to come up trumps on trade. So we are asking we are asking government to let industry lead.

"A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to ensure that industry is on the front foot to help government to prepare the best possible case for uninterrupted trade with the EU, and the best possible platform for bilateral trade deals with priority countries.

"We have the expertise within the WSTA and our membership to pave the way for a smooth Brexit for our world-leading industry. The size and the contribution made by the wine and spirit industry to the UK economy should not be ignored; and its influence with key trading partners should not be underestimated."