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WSTA calls on members to ‘embrace a brave new world of trading’ as the UK Brexit

Published:  31 January, 2020

The WSTA has called on its members to “embrace a brave new world of trading” and “focus on opportunities” as Britain leaves the EU.

Following a trade deal with the EU, breaking free of EU regulations would offer wine and spirit trade opportunities, said the trade body, adding it was time to “complete a trade deal with the EU – and move on”. 

“The wine and spirit industry must embrace a brave new world of trading. We need to focus on the opportunities and to steer government towards breaking down barriers on trade, while also reinforcing the UK’s position at the centre of international wine and spirit trading,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA.

The aim was to “leave behind some clunky and outdated EU rules, while maintaining consumer confidence in the safety and quality of wine and spirits; and to find a way to free up trade through innovation and improved technology”, he added. 

“The WSTA believes most EU rules need to be maintained to protect consumers and confidence in brands, however, there are some unnecessarily burdensome EU rules that are applied to wines and spirits that can be dropped to increase trade and consumer choice.”    

Having made it clear to government it wants to get the best out of Brexit, the  WSTA’s key asks comprises securing an FTA and building a strong new relationship with the EU; zero tariffs – permanently - on all wine and spirit imports; joining the World Wine Trade Group, dropping some EU rules, increasing trade, providing greater consumer choice; revising definitions to allow UK distillers to innovate and improving on existing technology to make trading even easier.

“We have started with some clear asks of government which, if practical steps are taken, we believe will keep the UK as the world’s number one spirit exporter, but could also see us take the top spot as the world’s largest wine importer by volume - from Germany,” said Beale.  

Earlier this month Beale met Steven Barclay, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, to discuss the importance of creating opportunities to benefit UK exporters, importers and ultimately UK consumers. 

Brexit comes a turbulent three and a half years after the vote was first put to the people of Britain in the EU referendum in June 2016, which resulted in 51.9% of the votes cast being in favour of leaving the Union. 

Today, as the UK formally leaves the EU after 47 years of membership, a new race to secure a trade agreement with the Union by the end of the standstill period - due to expire at the end of December this year - starts, with the wine and spirit industry praying this will be the beginning of bringing an end to business uncertainty.