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Britain facing ‘gin drought’ if no Brexit deal is found

Published:  12 June, 2018

British distillers are warning of a potential ‘gin drought’ if negotiators fail to reach a deal with the EU before the UK’s Brexit deadline next March.

Tonnes of juniper are imported from the Mediterranean every year to slake British drinkers’ thirst for gin, sales of which have surged 33% on volumes up 28% in the past year [WSTA].

If Britain were to leave the EU without a deal, distillers fear that supplies of juniper and other botanicals such as lemon peel, liquorice, orris root and angelica root would be squeezed, pushing up prices.

“The British gin industry is a great example of a booming trade that could be severely hampered if the so called ‘Brexit Armageddon’ scenario strikes,” said WSTA chief executive Miles Beale.

“Doomsday Brexit could have a catastrophic impact, certainly on some of the smaller gin distillers, who are likely not to have the capacity to buy in and store reserves to make their products. This could lead to a shortage or even wipe out your favourite craft gin.”

Beale added that the UK wine & spirits trade relies on the free movement of goods in and out of the UK and the WTSA is warning its members to ‘prepare for the worst’ following news that Theresa May’s government has drawn up a strategy for a no deal Brexit.

“If we are faced with a trade dead-stop at customs it is going to cause chaos at UK ports,” warned Dan Szor, founder of the Cotswold Distillery.

“Businesses like mine will find it very tough. We need clarity from government so that we can start to make a plan. At Cotswold Distillery we rely on juniper berries from Macedonia - and it comes into the UK via Calais. Without juniper there is no gin.”

The WTSA warns of similar dangers for the UK wine trade, which is says is worth £19.9 billion to the British economy.

In 2017, Britain imported 1.8 billion bottles of wine, half of which came from the EU. The WTSA says wine merchants need to double their stocks as a contingency.

But it warns that finding extra warehouse capacity and cashflow, at a time when the banks are increasingly cautious about lending to British businesses, will be a challenge.