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Lambert and Beale take VI-1 fight onto Newsnight

Published:  18 March, 2021

Campaigning wine importer Daniel Lambert and the WSTA’s Miles Beale added further momentum to the wine trade’s calls to abolish the much-derided VI-1 forms during an appearance on the BBC’s flagship news programme on Wednesday eve.

Rolled over from the UK’s membership of the EU, the wine form – currently on hold until 1 July for imports from the EU but re-applied by government to all non-EU countries from 1 January – will add significant costs to EU-sourced wine on UK shelves, said Lambert.

The VI-1 will have to be filled out by EU producers exporting to the UK, with a form required for each individual type of wine within a shipping consignment, adding costs that will especially impact on importers of smaller production wines, such as independent merchants.

The UK trade argues that the imposition of VI-1 on wine imports from the EU, following a transition period extended until 1 July, will simply add to an additional (and costly) bureaucratic burden that it has faced since the end of the Brexit transition period.

This, said Lambert, will also compound a situation where EU producers are already cooling on exporting to the UK because of additional red tape post-Brexit.

“If you give [producers] a problem, then they are less inclined to export to that particular market,” said Lambert.

“They’ve got plenty of places where they can choose to sell and the UK won’t be the first destination export market, which it should be really as the UK is an international hub [for wine import-export].”

Beale added that there are no customs requirements or safety issue involved that justify the form, and that no other alcoholic drink has the same type of form required.

“We’d like to see no new form introduced on 1 July and the government could go one further and abolish all VI-1 forms that it requires for wine coming from outside the EU as well,” he said.

Government provided a statement to Newsnight, refuting the claim that VI-1 forms would raise the cost of bottles of wine, at odds with UK trade predictions that prices for consumers will have to rise.

“We are confident that these arrangements will not add to the cost of wine for consumers and we continue to work closely with the wine sector to understand any trade challenges they face,” said a Defra spokesperson.

Lambert later tweeted his dismay, calling on all along the supply chain to “keep shouting that VI-1 must go!”, while also challenging the claim that government is working with the UK trade and listening to its concerns.

Beale and the WSTA have also flagged an apparent lack of response or engagement from government over the additional burdens faced by the trade in the post-Brexit world, including VI-1s. 

Some 55% of wine drunk in the UK comes from the EU, amounting to around £2bn annually, with the UK also a major hub for re-exporting wine to other territories.