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WSTA calls for Government to get a grip and produce a clear plan to prevent Brexit chaos

The Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association has warned that ministers need to set aside differences and produce a clear plan for Brexit or trade will suffer.

WSTA CEO, Miles Beale, revealed “deep seated” concerns from the drinks industry about their chaotic approach to Brexit and called on them to liaise with EU Counterparts immediately after the summer.

He urged Government to “get a grip” and provide businesses with an agreed, clear, carefully thought through policy for the UK’s trading future.

The trade association, that represents over 300 companies, believes a transitional period is key, to avoid disruption to historic trade flows.

WSTA Chief Executive, Miles Beale, said:

“The wine and spirit industry has had enough of political posturing and Cabinet rifts which have led to a flurry of mixed messages over what we should expect from the Government approach to Brexit. Put bluntly we want Government to get a grip and put to rest some of the deep seated concerns facing our trade – by telling us clearly what they are going to ask for when negotiations get serious in the Autumn.

“The WSTA has argued continually for a negotiated deal including a transition period that would allow the UK to agree a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. Then the Government needs to make quick progress on other bilateral FTAs with our major trading partners. Such a transition would give businesses time to prepare fully for a post-EU trading environment.

“We have been encouraged by some recent comments made by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, but just when you think there is a plan in place another minister comes in and contradicts it. It is simply not good enough for business needing to plan for their future and that of their employees. It has been over a year since the referendum and over four months since Article 50 was triggered. We have had nothing solid from Government since the White Paper and no coherent message about our trading future. Our industry needs to feel confident that there is an agreed, carefully thought through, plan for trade before we leave the EU. Without it businesses are just bystanders – increasingly frustrated ones at that.

“We want to see the Government getting a grip, forming a plan, communicating clearly and taking it to the EU to get a deal that works for everyone”.

Last month Miles and others from the food and drink sector relayed their concerns to the new Secretary of State for Defra, Michael Gove, at a roundtable.

Miles followed up with a letter spelling out what the wine and spirit industry needs to keep its status as a key hub for the global drinks market.

The WSTA represents an industry worth around £50 billion to the UK and supports over half a million jobs in the UK. 

The UK is an incredibly important market for the world’s wine producers. Over 99% of wine consumed in the UK is imported and in 2016 total sales amounted to more than £10bn.

The most important issue for UK wine businesses, and the 277,000 UK jobs that the industry supports, directly and indirectly, is for the UK to remain central to world wine trading post-Brexit.

Britain is by far the largest exporter of spirits in the world and the industry which supports some 296,000 UK jobs, directly and indirectly, can only invest and grow if trade flows are secure.

Over 1bn litres of UK spirits are exported to foreign markets, including more than 200m bottles of gin. Three out of every four bottles of gin imported around the world are made in the UK.


WSTA urges new government to strike a full negotiated divorce settlement with EU

Sufficient time is needed to ensure minimum disruption to historic trade flows and grow non-EU trade.

A failed negotiation would be totally unacceptable.

The Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Miles Beale, is calling on the Government to pull out all the stops at Brexit talks to avoid the worse possible outcome – a cliff edge “no deal” Brexit.

On the eve of the first formal face to face talks - between the UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier - the WSTA is pushing for a full negotiated ‘divorce’ settlement.

The trade association, which represents over 300 of the UK’s wine and spirit businesses, said their members needed sufficient time to prepare their businesses for a post-EU trading environment.

The WSTA warned that Brexit may result in contraction of trade with Europe which will mean the UK needing to look to increase non-EU trading partners, especially through new bilateral free deals with third countries, including improved terms that could only be agreed once the UK has left the customs union. 

WSTA Chief Executive, Miles Beale, said:

“While there has been a great deal of speculation over recent days about what the election result means for Brexit negotiations, the WSTA’s position remains unchanged.  We have long argued for a negotiated deal, including a full ‘divorce” settlement and agreement on the terms of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU.

“It is essential that the UK secures transitional measures allowing sufficient time for the necessary systems to be introduced and properly tested. Ideally a transition period would allow the UK to agree a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and then to make good progress on other bilateral FTAs with our major trading partners.  Such a transition would give businesses time to prepare fully for a post-EU trading environment.”

The UK is currently the world’s second largest importer of wine by both volume and value. The most important issue for UK wine businesses and the 277,000 UK jobs that the industry supports, directly and indirectly, is for the UK to remain central to world wine trading post-Brexit.

The UK is by far the largest exporter of spirits in the world and the industry which supports some 296,000 UK jobs, directly and indirectly, can only invest and grow if trade flows are secure.

This reflects a fundamental theme in the WSTA’s Brexit policy paper here: to minimise disruption to historic trade flows.

But it would be naïve not to plan for the worst case scenario in which talks break down which is why the WSTA has been working with its members to ensure businesses are prepared and have started to plan and take mitigating action to reduce the impact in the event of trade flows, particularly to and from the EU, being disrupted in the short term.

Miles Beale added:

“Failure to agree terms resulting in a cliff-edge ‘no deal’ Brexit would be the worst possible outcome and totally unacceptable. This would inevitably lead to disruption to trade flows in the short term and significant uncertainty for business in the medium term - until trade deals with the EU and the UK’s other major trading partners could be agreed.

“And I will be taking this exact same message to the 45,000 visitors from 150 countries in Vinexpo, Bordeaux’s international wine and spirit trade show next week. Our industry needs all the European politicians to hear and understand this message from the entire international wine industry. EU politicians have a responsibility to our industry to deliver a Brexit that in no way disrupts the long established trading patterns on which we all rely.”

It’s vitally important too that Government does all it can to minimise the impact of a cliff edge Brexit, including joining the World Wine Trade Group and negotiating bilateral agreements with Australian and the US to replace current EU wine agreements with those countries. 

While it is important to plan for the worst it is also essential to work towards a negotiated outcome.  The WSTA is doing all it can by engaging with our European trading partners, it’s vital that the UK Government does the same.    

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