The WSTA’s Annual Conference 2016 tackled Brexit and beyond

The WSTA’s Annual Conference 2016 tackled Brexit and beyond

The WSTA annual conference 2016 gave guests a fascinating insight into what the future for the industry might hold in terms of both Brexit and innovations.

Chief Executive Miles Beale kicked off the event by highlighting the industry’s success stories - including British gin and English wine - both of which have captured the attention of the media and politicians in recent months.

Moving on to the conference theme ‘Brexit and the changing shape of the industry’, Miles used his speech to focus on the challenges and opportunities of leaving the EU.

He made it clear that developing model agreements with third countries for wine and spirits should begin immediately.

And described how he had already begun talks with Australian and New Zealand counterparts to develop a model wine and spirit agreement, during a visit last month.

Miles spoke of his confidence that the combination of the strong WSTA team and its solid relationship with government means “we will be able to work with civil servants and politicians to shape the post-Brexit landscape.”

He said: “The industry can prepare model agreements that both governments of a bilateral trade deal can sign immediately after the UK has left the EU.”

And set out three clear aims as we prepare for a post-Brexit world.

1.      First, to do everything we can to support an orderly exit from the EU that minimises disruption to historic trade flows into and out of the EU.

2.      Secondly, to exploit fully the new opportunities for increased trade with third countries. Put simply, more and better international trade. Because it’s a pre-requisite to the Government’s stated aim of making a success of Brexit.

3.      Thirdly, to argue for maximum support from the UK Government for our industry. That means fairer taxation, appropriate support at home and – perhaps counter-intuitively – letting us help them. We are the experts at trading wines and spirits - at home, with EU countries and beyond.

Miles also announced that the WSTA are setting up new Brexit working groups to look at international trade, exiting the EU and European trade flows and Customs, logistics and movement controls.

He was followed by the keynote speaker, former Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Maude of Horsham, who gave his uniquely unbiased opinion of what the future holds for the industry.

Addressing the audience in a packed theatre at the Royal Institution of Great Britain Lord Maude spoke of his time as Margaret Thatcher’s Minister for Europe.

He described the EU at that time as “a club: there was only one way to be a member; it was binary; you’re in or you’re out.”

Looking to the future Lord Maude said the most immediate priority for Brussels was migration adding “migration is a daily pressing issue.”

He agreed with Miles that a priority for the UK should be to get the most open and free trade relationship with the EU and beyond.

H said that the model that Britain “should aim for and I hope achieve is something much more bespoke” than others have achieved.

He added: “The crucial thing for your sector is to ensure your voice is heard. You have a super-effective trade body in the WSTA that can collect and deliver your messages effectively to government.”

Lord Maude ended his speech with a nod to the industry’s fantastic global reputation:  “One of my abiding illuminations from my time as Trade Minister has been to find just how much goodwill there is around the world towards Britain. We underestimate it at our peril. And how much appreciation there is of the quality, prestige and cachet that attaches to what we produce. I no sector is that more pronounced than in the field of high end food and drink.”

Following a Q&A session with Maude it was then the turn of our inspirational panellists who discussed “Innovations – routes to market, financing and technology”.

The Speakers included Cilla Snowball CBE, Group Chairman and CEO of AMV, BBDO, William Higham, Behavioural Futurist, Author and Founder of the Next Big Thing, Frazer Thompson, CEO of the Chapel Down Group and Jacqueline Davey, Vice President, Enterprise Sales, UKI at IBM.

The panel discussion was led by former ITN political correspondent, Alex Forrest, who grilled them on what the future held for the industry.

Cilla Snowball spoke of the need for the industry to employ bold innovative thinkers, people “who could see round corners.”

William Higham stressed the importance of knowing your client or customers’ needs he said: “If it doesn’t fulfil a consumer need it’s not going to succeed.”

Looking to the future he predicted that revenue for the industry over the next 5 years was going to come from “premiumisation, premiumisation, premisuation”.

This was echoed by Jacqueline Davey who said: “Change is the new normal. There is constant disruption. Premiusation and collaboration is going to be key.”

Frazer Thompson described how one of the ways Chapel Down have tried to innovate is their crowd funding scheme.

He said: “Crowd funding for us has been about directly engaging with the consumers.” Frazer described the shareholders passion for the product as key to their success.

The event ended with a product showcase from WSTA members. Guests were able to walk through the historic venue and sample some of the finest wine and spirits on the market.

A special thank you goes to our sponsors on the day JFHillebrand and Franklin & Sons Ltd who helped ensure that the Wine and Spirit Trade Association Annual Conference 2016 was a resounding success.

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