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WSTA hits out at government for failing to count true cost of VI-1 certification

Published:  15 June, 2020

The WSTA has hit out at government for misleading the public over claims that EU wine importation costs would, according to Defra, be “nil or negligible”.

Prompted by a question from Tim Loughton MP, Defra was asked to assess the cost of VI-1 import forms on all EU wines, which would follow a No Deal Brexit.

In reply, under secretary of state for Defra, Victoria Prentis, said: “As inspections for imported wine are undertaken on a risk-based percentage, regardless of origin or import certification, no specific assessment has been made regarding additional costs of controls, although it is expected to be nil or negligible.” 

Challenging the reply, the WSTA accused Prentis of misleading Parliament by ignoring the £70m bill anticipated by British businesses from the extra red tape. 

“The Minister has been highly selective in focussing on the costs falling on UK enforcement bodies of requiring import certificates for EU wine and has chosen to completely overlook the significant costs falling to exporters, costs which will have to be met by UK importers and ultimately UK consumers if we leave without a deal,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA.

It was “extremely disappointing” that, despite four years of discussing this issue with Defra, “the facts have fallen on deaf ears and the Minister has confirmed that the government has not even bothered to make any assessment”, he added.

“This government needs to wake up, listen to business and start taking action that supports economic activity and job creators. And it doesn’t have long to do it,” he said.

“We have long supported a risk-based approach to inspection, but the costs of additional VI-1 forms for EU wines will not be ‘nil or negligible’ – the truth is that for UK wine SME businesses they will be catastrophic and are likely to put people out of business. But it’s not just British business which will suffer, Britain’s 33 million wine lovers will too. The cost of wine will go up and consumers will see some of their favourite wines disappear from the shelves.”

Last year the WSTA warned the new inspections for imported EU wine would generate over 600,000 customs forms which is anticipated to treble the inspection board’s workload overnight.

EU wine producers will inevitably pass some, or all, of these costs on to UK importers and customers meaning that UK wine businesses, especially High Street specialist merchants, will suffer.

As well as putting a huge burden on the UK wine industry the WSTA says this will lead to higher wine prices - adding an estimated 10p on a bottle of wine - and a reduced choice for consumers.

Following lobbying by the WSTA, the government agreed to temporarily suspend the introduction of import forms in October - a decision it has however since made a U-turn on.