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Industry needs to ‘redouble efforts’ to scrap VI-1s

Published:  27 January, 2021

Victoria Prentis, minister for fishing and farming, this week confirmed that the government will “consider in due course whether there is a case for revisiting the requirements of the VI-1 certification”. 

Part of a debate held by the Delegated Legislation Committee on Agricultural Products, Food and Drink on Monday, the statement prompted Cambridge Wine Merchants MD Hal Wilson to call on the trade and media, via Twitter, to “give it our best shot together”.

“The minister said ‘we will consider in due course whether there is a case for revisiting the requirements of the VI-1 certification’. We need to re-double our efforts to make that case,” said Wilson.

“The minister acknowledges that the government can look critically at VI-1 import certification and see if it remains fit for purpose. She also suggests that she will think about ‘revisiting the requirements of the VI-1 certification’. That does not sound like someone who wishes to abandon VI-1 certification, even if it doesn’t appear fit for purpose,” he told Harpers.

“What we desperately need, in the light of the huge increase in red tape thrust upon us and all EU wine producers, is not yet more in the form of another pointless barrier to trade, but for VI-1s and any type of extra wine import certificate to be scrapped,” he added.

This, he said, would create a level playing field for all wine producers and “open the door for reciprocal arrangements for our own UK wine producers”. 

“As we come to terms with the enormous raft of extra bureaucratic barriers that Customs Declarations represent it would be a relief if the government could listen to and respond favourably to our case for the scrapping of VI-1s and wine import certification.”

Miles Beale, CEO of the WSTA, which has been lobbying relentlessly for the abolishment of VI-1s, added: “Our immediate concern is to avoid the introduction of a paper-based system and we hope that Victoria Prentis’ latest comments in Parliament result in a deferral of the introduction of the new certificates until a simplified electronic system is up and running.

“It came as a huge relief that following the WSTA’s campaign calling on government to scrap unnecessary and costly red tape, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) removes the requirement to introduce the full VI-1 certificate with laboratory tests,” he said.

The WSTA remained unconvinced of the need for a specific wine import certificate – “no other category of alcoholic drink requires anything of the sort”, he added.   

“The government has agreed to defer the introduction of the simplified wine import certificate for EU wine shipments until 1 July.  However, the new certificate, while a considerable improvement on what could have been, will still be an additional burden on producers and importers,”

In October, Beale warned that the threat of VI-1 forms was “still very real”, following the government announcement that VI-1 certificates would not be required for EU wine imported into Great Britain from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 - a temporary six month suspension.