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Lords advocate ditching VI-1s in favour of digital wine passport

Published:  27 July, 2020

The introduction of burdensome VI-1 forms to wine entering the UK from the EU has found its way into the House of Lords where members debated scrapping them via an amendment to the Agriculture Bill. 

Lord Holmes of Richmond tabled the amendment by way of highlighting the fiscal and administrative burden the forms would place on the UK maintaining its reputation as one of the world’s premiere fine wine hubs. 

The suggested amendments follow a written statement from the government which claimed that the cost of VI-1s would be “nil or negligible”. 

This is something which the UK wine industry has strongly contested. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) estimated that the extra red tape could generate over 600,000 paper forms – at least a threefold increase for wine inspectors. 

The cost the UK wine trade could be an extra £70 million a year, causing wine prices to rise and consumer choice to fall.

“Leaving the EU offers a major opportunity to cement the UK as the world’s wine hub,” Lord Holmes said. “The VI-1 is not fit for purpose for the UK outside of the EU, and by initially removing the requirement for a limited period after the transition period, the UK can lead the way by creating a new, simplified, electronic wine passport which facilitates trade from all over the world and opens up new opportunities for this Great British industry.

“Wine is the UK’s sixth biggest food and drink export, worth around £650 million, and by making trade easier and removing unnecessary prescriptive EU rules, we can boost the UK’s place as a world-leader in wine and ensure consumers can continue to buy a wide and exciting range of wine from all over the world.”

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA added: “We are extremely pleased that the House of Lords has chosen to debate the introduction of the controversial VI-1 certification for wine coming into the UK from the EU. 

“It is entirely within the government’s gift to avoid imposing these complicated, costly and unnecessary checks. Politicians need to better understand this issue, which if it isn’t handled properly will see the UK’s world leading wine industry facing a catastrophic disruption to trade.”

Wine coming in from Europe is currently not subject to VI-1 checks and lab tests. Around 55% of wine consumed in the UK is imported from the EU.

If things follow along their current trajectory, certification rules will change on 1 January 2021, meaning all wine imported from Europe will be subject to VI-1s, regardless if the UK strikes a free-trade deal with the EU or not.