UK trade will be stopped-dead if goods have to be declared

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has warned government that if Brexit talks don’t achieve frictionless borders, “delays and gridlocks” at ports will encourage the resurgence of alcohol smugglers.

The triggering of Article 50 next week has prompted concern from WSTA members who fear post Brexit red tape will bring customs to a standstill and transform key ports and surrounding roads into lorry parks.

The UK wine trade is worth £17.3 billion in economic activity. We import 1.8bn bottles of wine into Britain worth £2.8bn - 55%, the equivalent of 1bn bottles of wine, come from the EU.

The majority of wine imports arrive by boat and are transferred to lorries and distributed across the country. On average Dover alone handles 290 lorries per hour, carrying a range of goods, which works out at one every 12.4 seconds.

Imports from and exports to countries from outside the European Union are subject to customs controls. Goods from the EU, however, are free to be moved on with no extra checks, safeguarded by EU standards and the terms of the single market.

When the UK leaves the customs union, it would see more than double the volume of cargo that could be subject to inspection at British ports.

All British ports’ operations are designed around the “just in time” principle, so there isn’t the capacity for hold ups.


Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Miles Beale, said:

 “We all want to avoid a cliff-edge situation and urge government to take industry advice on how to avoid a trade dead-stop and ensure the rapid transit of goods. There must be clear and workable mechanisms in place to allow cross-border trade of wine and spirits from the moment we leave the EU. Anything else will result in huge delays at the ports leading to backlogs and gridlock. We must do everything we can to prevent Britain turning into a lorry park. If this isn’t addressed it will mean misery on the roads for all and will also mean that wine and spirits will not get onto the shelves. If this happens it is not unrealistic to expect an influx of bootleggers looking to find more efficient ways of getting alcohol into the UK.”


The UK wine industry is booming and is central to the global wine trade. It is the second largest wine importer by volume to Germany and the second largest by value to the USA.

When the UK exits the EU Customs Union a new set of customs clearance and border control procedures are vital to maintain our poll position in the world wide wine trade.

On Friday Jascots Wine Merchants welcomed their local MP Andy Slaughter to officially open their expanded head office and discussed industry concerns over Brexit.


Managing Partner of Jascots Wine Merchants, John Charnock, said:

“We’ve been working closely with our suppliers and clients to minimise the impact of Brexit thus far and believe it’s important that we all do our part to ensure the future of this industry and help our members of Parliament understand what they can do to assist.”


Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter MP said:

“Government need to be doing more to address the concerns of the industries like wine importers who rely on the smooth flow of trade with the EU. Without frictionless trade we could see industry grinding to a halt and some of the 270 thousand people employed by the UK wine industry could find themselves out of a job.”

If a resolution is not promptly in place experts warn this could be followed by a surge of opportunist bootleggers who the WSTA believe will find alternative ways of getting goods to market.


WSTA Customs expert, David Richardson, said:

 “If we find ourselves in the nightmare scenario of UK ports shutting down as lorries are held in stacking chaos then goods will not be getting to market. This will inevitably lead to bootlegging. The UK is the most important country in the global wine and spirit trade and criminals will find alternative methods of getting alcohol in. It’s big business for Britain and it’s vital government maintains the free flow of trade between the UK and Europe and reassures industry with an early solution.”

The wine and spirit industry are calling for clarity from government to whether there will be new customs checks and if they would take place in the UK or at EU ports.



Notes to editors:

The port of Dover sees 10,000 lorries arrive every day, of which 98% are from the EU.

Dover recorded its busiest day ever for freight traffic on 23 November 2016, handling 10,558 freight vehicles. Another 777,000 lorries were carried across the Irish Sea between Britain and in November 2016 traffic reached 11% higher than in the same month in 2015.

More than 40% of the UK’s international trade by value arrives in and leaves the country in lorries and trailers on ferries.

The Channel Tunnel carried a further 1.5 million lorries. 

The majority of the remainder of roll on and roll off (ro-ro) freight between the UK and the Continent passes through terminals on the Humber (Hull, Immingham and Killingholme: 1 million units) and on the Thames (Purfleet and Tilbury: 550,000 units in 2015) and through Harwich (350,000) and Portsmouth (250,000). The ports of Teesport, Newhaven, Tyne, Poole, Plymouth and Rosyth also handle significant numbers of lorries and trailers.



The WSTA is the UK organisation for the wine and spirit industry, representing over 300 companies producing, importing, transporting and selling wine and spirits. The WSTA works with its members to promote responsible production, marketing and sale of alcohol.


For more information please contact:

Lucy Panton - [email protected]

Tel: +44 (0) 207 0893875

Mobile: + 44 (0) 7776422656

Harriet Talbot [email protected]

Tel +44 (0) 207 0893875

Mobile +44 (0) 7587290720

Twitter @wstauk

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