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Government backs down on VI-1 forms

Published:  21 October, 2019

The government has agreed to temporarily suspend the introduction of forms which were feared to create an extra layer of red tape for the wine industry in what is shaping up to be an increasingly disorderly Brexit.

This morning, it was confirmed that VI-1 forms – a type of import certification requirement – will be temporarily suspended for wine coming from the EU for nine months from a  UK’s exit date.

VI-1 forms are currently only required for wine being imported into the EU from outside the bloc, with notable exceptions, such as Australia and the US, which fill out simplified versions.

It was feared that imposing the forms on EU wine coming to the UK would create a paperwork nightmare for the UK wine industry as well as adding 10p to the price of a bottle of wine and restricting consumer choice.

Previously, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) had said that failure to suspend the introduction of the forms would “cost the UK’s wine industry upwards of £70 million a year”.

It is now calling on government to take advantage of the “breathing space to reform import certification for all wine, not just from the EU” and to reduce red tape by “modernising and simplifying the current system”.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA said: “The government’s actions are a victory for common sense and will be met with a sense of relief by the UK wine industry as the threat of a £70 million bill has been removed.

“As we made clear in our lengthy discussions with government officials, the additional form filling and laboratory tests needed had paperwork requirements not been suspended would have added a massive burden on businesses and consumers alike.

“We are delighted that the government has listened to the WSTA and demonstrated that they value the UK wine industry. However, they can and must go further. In the upcoming Budget on 6 November, they should listen to the WSTA and some 33 million Brits who drink wine and cut wine duty by 2%. This would be the first Government to cut still wine tax since Nigel Lawson was Chancellor in 1984.”

The decision comes after a series of talks between the WSTA and concerned officials from Whitehall over the summer, including written correspondence with both Michael Gove MP and Stephen Barclay MP which aimed to set out the damage additional documentation would cause the UK’s wine industry.

Around 55% of the wine consumed in the UK comes from the EU.

The WSTA is also highlighting the impact of a no deal Brexit on the devaluation of sterling and the potential knock-on effect on the UK’s wine industry.

Such a scenario could “significantly impact wine imports and the treasury’s insistence on imposing harsh tax rises on wine all still present threats to an industry that employs some 130,000 people across the supply chain”, the WSTA said.

Miles Beale has since clarified: the forms will be suspended for nine months in the case of a no deal Brexit. In the case of a deal, the suspension will last for the during of a (yet to be confirmed) transition period.