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UK should embrace “best in class” IT to secure global drinks trading pre-eminence

Published:  16 July, 2020

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU and subsequent shake up of import-export requirements is an opportunity to implement a system that secures Britain’s place as the unrivalled hub of international drinks trading.

Speaking exclusively to Harpers, Miles Beale, CEO of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, said that the end of transition provides the ideal impetus to achieve this “ambitious goal” and ensure that UK trading conditions are as business friendly and efficient as possible.

"In 10 years time the UK absolutely must have the best import-export system for alcoholic drinks in the world,” said Beale.

“We need a new one, it absolutely should be electronic, and it can be developed at the same time as we have new border control regimes and decide what we are going to do with excise duty, which government is reviewing entirely as well.”

Beale said that UK importers will be required to process more information for European wine imports post the end of transition on 1 January 2021, but that this should not be too much more than is already required while we are still in the single market.

However, considering the wider international picture, he questioned the need for the currently proposed and costly VI-1 forms, “that are paper, that require certification here, there and everywhere”.

“It’s the only model we have, but it’s a rubbish model”, he added, arguing that the system must be electronic and uniform for wine, no matter where it is being imported from.

“This is not only doable, but necessary, it will take a large government IT project, best in class, it’s a really big goal, but should the UK in 10 years time be the centre of the drinks trading industry – yes, absolutely,” Beale said.

He added that the quicker the UK can do this, the quicker it can “climb to the top of the international tree, and stay there for as long as possible”.

Beale highlighted that the UK is the second biggest importer of wine in the world by both volume and value (to different countries), and the biggest exporter of spirits in the world.

“If that isn’t the germ of some sort of world domination, I don’t know what is, so we have to get it right, get back to doing what we do well, which is trading, and it’s going to be very much international,” he concluded.