WSTA Fortnightly Q+A Webinars (COVID-19)

In such a fast changing environment keeping on top of the latest information can be difficult, which is why the WSTA is planning to host a weekly webinar for members. The WSTA team will be on hand to answer as many of your questions as possible and to provide a short update on the situation at present.

All businesses are feeling the far-reaching effects of the developing Coronavirus pandemic so the WSTA is hosting a weekly COVID-19 Q+A webinar that are open to all wine and spirit businesses, whether you are a member or not.


Next live Q+A session:

We want to bring members – and non-members – up-to-date and vital information however, with fewer updates or changes in policy from Government there is less to cover on a weekly basis. We’re therefore moving our ‘weekly’ webinars to a fortnightly webinar.

Register for the next webinar, which will take place on 16 July 2020 at 11am:

Submit your questions in advance:  email 


Missed a webinar?

If you are a WSTA member, you can rewatch previous weeks’ webinars here:

If you don’t have time to rewatch the webinars, we will be summarising each session into a bitesize round up of the five key topics that were discussed, which you can find below:


1. The Government has updated guidance on the flexible furlough scheme

From August, employers will have to contribute National Insurance and pension, from September employers will also contribute 10% of wages when staff are furloughed, from October this will increase to 20% when staff are furloughed, with the scheme closing on October 31st. The 31st July is the last date to make a claim up to 30th June - after this date new furlough applications will not be accepted. The Government has produced a step by step employer guide, and additional furlough guidance 2. The hospitality sector will be re-opening from 4th July

Pubs, bars and restaurants are able to operate from 4th July, whilst casinos, theatres, nightclubs and live music venues must remain closed. Sectoral guidance has been published. These are comprehensive and easy to read. The WSTA urges members to read all relevant guidance and to consider mitigating measures for its business, consulting staff and engaging external help where necessary.

The Government has made clear there remains the threat of re-closures if guidelines are not being followed or the R rate of infection increases. Venues will be required to collect personal data from customers to aid in tracing if local outbreaks of Coronavirus are reported 3. The 2 metre social distancing guideline has been reduced to ‘1 metre plus’

Venues must promote social distancing when open. Further precautions are required, for example, staff should where possible serve customers behind screens etc. These additional measures are outlined in the published sectoral guidance.

A Business and Planning Bill is being put in front of Parliament today – the measures within the Bill are designed to relax licensing restrictions to enable hospitality venues to trade more freely from 4th July. Tables could be set up in car parks for example.

The WSTA notes that there may be opportunities for businesses who have previously not been licensed to make use of outside space to speak with their Local Authority, as there may be scope for greater utilisation of outside space post-July 4th 4. Wednesday next week is the last possible date that the UK can request an extension to the Transition period

The Government has made it clear they will not be requesting an extension. Any deal agreed between the UK and EU for post-Transition trading must be ready for ratification by October, otherwise the EU has made clear the UK will exit the Transition period from January 2021 without a deal. The WSTA is organising a VI-1 import certification form working group for 16th June – further details to follow. 5. The way goods move across the UK/NI/EU27 borders will change post-Transition

We know that for movements between EU27 and GB, customs declarations for standard goods will be required from Day 1. It is possible to apply for a 6 month declaration and tariff deferment for standard goods. For alcohol (bulk or finished goods, or alcohol as an ingredient), full import/export declarations will be required from Day 1.

It looks likely the UK will not require safety a security declaration for alcohol arriving in Great Britain– but it is not clear whether EU will reciprocate at the other end Goods moving from Northern Ireland to GB should have unfettered access and shouldn’t face any additional checks - for goods going from GB to NI, HMRC are trying to minimise disruption. They have stated that there is to be 'no new bespoke physical infrastructure' in GB.

When sending goods to Northern Ireland, the final destination of goods will need to be explicit – if there is a risk that goods could ultimately end up in the EU by crossing NI/RoI border then EU tariffs will be payable at the point the goods leave GB. Goods travelling from GB to NI need to make import and security declarations from Day 1.

The WSTA continues to liaise with HMRC on all these issues and will update members as and when more information becomes available

1. Developments since the last WSTA webinar

Whilst there have been no major Government announcements since the last webinar, there have been suggestions in the media that social distancing rules could be relaxed, down to 1 metre from 2 metres, which could allow more pubs to reopen, and that some venues could be allowed to re-open prior to 4th July. Yesterday, however, the Government underlined that venues will not be permitted to open prior to 4th July at the earliest.

The Government has announced support bubbles for multiple households, allowing those living alone to mix with another household.

2. The WSTA continues to liaise with the BEIS hospitality team as we prepare for re-opening of the on-trade

The WSTA has seen draft guidance produced by the hospitality team at BEIS, and this is likely to be released next week. The WSTA notes the guidance references 'adequate ventilation' as a requirement for venues reopening, which would both suggest venues with outside areas are best-placed to open first, and also that venues without outside space may be able to operate provided they can demonstrate adequate ventilation throughout the premises to protect staff and customers.

3. The WSTA continues its efforts to have the definition of the hospitality sector extended to include those in the supply chain

Thanks to continued liaison with BEIS, they have confirmed that our request is now in front of ministers and we await further developments. WSTA efforts centre not only on business rates relief, but also on futureproofing access to Government support in the future for supply chain businesses. We also continues to engage with Parliamentary select committees, and we will be responding to Treasury select committee consultation in the near future – WSTA will circulate response to members in due course.

4. The WSTA’s latest Coronavirus survey, with 30 total responses, provided useful insights into how members have engaged with the suite of support made available by Government. The survey is still open.

23 of respondents had made use of the Government’s furlough scheme – it’s clear this scheme is very important, and without it some respondents intimated that redundancies would be inevitable. Nine companies have applied for business rates grants, with some suppliers receiving business rates support – this comes after WSTA urged companies to liaise directly with their Local Authority after we were made aware of a supplier securing a business rates holiday from Lambeth council.

Few companies surveyed are taking up loans, which backs up what the WSTA has been telling Government that businesses are reluctant to take on additional debt

The majority of companies surveyed have made use of some form of support, including Time to Pay for excise duty referral. The survey is still open for responses, and you can complete this here. All responses received will help inform discussions with the BEIS hospitality team and wider Government, and also will feed into our upcoming response to the Treasury select committee.

5. WSTA has produced guidance on getting back to businesses for suppliers

This guidance is available as a standalone webinar here. Supply chain businesses need to be aware of conversations they need to have prior to the re-opening of the hospitality sector. Business is unlikely to look how it did pre-lockdown. Businesses should ascertain stock levels at businesses they supply, they should check with suppliers abroad to check delivery times, with logistics teams to talk about demand for their services, and with employees, so they are clear how and when they will be returning to work.

Businesses should check on staff pay, insurance cover, credit terms, payment schedule for creditors - including HMRC - and be aware of how businesses will deal with debt - both those that owe you money and to whom you owe money.

Physical processes will need to be altered to operate in the current climate – the WSTA urges members to be aware of Government guidance and understand how people and goods will move around the facility. It is recommended that businesses document processes and regularly review these, and the WSTA is happy to assist members in putting together these documents.

1. Developments since last webinar

The UK is facing a recession 'the likes of which we haven't seen'. The Chancellor has been more downbeat in tone recently. Government are currently unsure as to the degree of 'scarring' to the UK economy as a result of Coronavirus. The Bank of England has suggested that recovery could be quicker than in previous recessions, but all is dependent on how and when various measures imposed in the interest of public health are lifted.

Retail restrictions are to be relaxed - car show rooms, outdoor markets etc can reopen from June 1st, whilst from 15th June other non-essential retail shops are able to open. Government has updated sectoral guidance for re-opening. This guidance is focused on how employers can manage risk, and demonstrate that they are taking sufficient measures to mitigate risk for employees and customers.

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay scheme is open as of May 26th and the Coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme has been extended to allow for applications for loans up to £200 million. Government announced track and trace provisions on 27th May.

2. What comes next?

Greater details are to be announced to the furlough scheme and are due this week. The WSTA is expecting a degree of employer contribution, extended to National Insurance. It is only speculation at this stage that this contribution could be as high as 20%. Part-time furlough provisions are also to be announced.

Further advice from the Government’s medical advisory panel SAGE is expected on relaxing social distancing measures – possibly reducing the social distance requirement to 1 metre, down from 2 metres. This is a key ask of the hospitality sector as they look to assess how guidance can be practically followed in re-opening hospitality venues. There is speculation that it might be possible for some hospitality venues to open earlier than the planned 4th July date. This would likely apply to venues with outside space that are able to promote social distancing measures effectively.

The WSTA has noted that there are a number of steps that hospitality venues will need to take – distance marking, disposal of old stock, installation of protective measures for staff, securing new stock etc – this could make an earlier opening date difficult.

3. Where has the WSTA been focusing?

  • The WSTA has been pushing Government to extend the definition of hospitality to the supply chain, allowing those who supply into the sector the access the same support as hospitality venues that have been forced to close. We continue to engage Government, MPs, the opposition, and officials, with meetings scheduled this week and next. We are keen to stress that the window for securing greater support is closing. The WSTA is not only focused on business rates relief and grants, as there is a need to future proof access for suppliers to government support.
  • (Update post-webinar) Whilst the webinar was taking place, the WSTA heard from Government that businesses can seek time to pay deferment accounts due in June. The WSTA is working to confirm that this applies to excise duty and will advise members as soon as more information becomes available.
  • The WSTA continues to engage with Treasury officials around getting duty paid goods back into excise warehouses to free up cashflow for cashflow.
  • Treasury are considering this request. They are also considering extending bad debt relief for excise duty. The Government are, in the WSTA’s eyes, reluctant to take further action with finances under a lot of pressure. The WSTA has made clear that what we are proposals are limited in scope, and are easy wins that won’t strain Treasury coffers.
  • The WSTA continues to promote awareness of fraudulent activity, and businesses are urged to check procedures and remain alert that fraudsters are seeking to take advantage of the current situation

4. The WSTA’s focus continues to remain on the re-opening of the hospitality sector, as non-essential retail outlets begin to open across the UK. The WSTA is able to help businesses prepare for re-opening

Many direct to consumer businesses and off-licenses are already considered essential businesses thanks to work undertaken by WSTA earlier during the lockdown period to lobby government, and so the opening of non-essential retail will have limited impact on wines and spirits. The guidance issued by Government for businesses imminently allowed to open in the retail sector aren't vastly different to guidance already in place – the guidance discusses floor markings, safety of staff, and many will be familiar with the measures detailed as they are obvious in the UK’s supermarkets and broader essential retail venues.

The WSTA continues to await guidance on the re-opening of the hospitality sector

BEIS are producing guidance, and WSTA are in discussion with them. This guidance is not yet ready for publication and will likely hinge on any changes to the 2 metre social distancing rule. The WSTA notes that is likely that SAGE will help shape the guidance

The WSTA has asked for examples of company-specific guidance that businesses have produced to help their staff as they return to work. This can help WSTA in their discussions with officials and help to demonstrate examples of best practice.

The WSTA is available to sense check individual policies for re-opening of distilleries, cellar door shops, etc, so please get in touch. This advice is not legally or formally binding but can help businesses shape their plans for re-opening. Please contact and

WSTA members need to continue to apply pressure their MPs so that supply chain businesses can take advantage of business rates holidays etc. Some Local Authorities are granting rates relief to suppliers, this is based on case-by-case basis, and is reliant on interpretation by Local Authorities. BEIS continue to ask WSTA how much a business rates holiday extension to suppliers could cost – The WSTA do not envisage this being a huge cost to the Government, but the clearer picture the WSTA has will help ensure the best case Is made for additional support measures, and so member co-operation in this area is again being sought.

5. The WSTA is preparing another member survey

We want to understand what support our members have accessed, and if you have decided not to take advantage of a particular measure i.e. Government-backed loans, and the reasons of that decision.

We will use the results of the survey to map a clear industry and supply chain picture, which will be useful in further discussions with officials.

1. Government announcements since the last WSTA Covid-19 webinar

  • Bounce back loan scheme announced, which opened on 4th May. WSTA has had feedback from members saying that the mechanism for application is smooth, and money is flowing to accounts soon after paperwork completed. This process seems to be working well but the WSTA is keen to continue to hear feedback on this issue.
  • The Government's recovery plan has been announced, marking the cautious road to re-opening the economy. This included 50 pages of detail which was issued on 10th May. The Government continues to advise that those able to should work from home, but if you cannot work remotely you should return to work from 11th May.
  • Hospitality will not open until 4th July at earliest. There will be a slow easing of restrictions, but the Government has noted that it will not hesitate to reimpose measures if the rate of infection gets higher.
  • Sectoral guidance for re-opening post-lockdown has been introduced. This focuses on managing workplace risk and places an obligation on business to reduce risk for staff returning to work.
  • Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of October and will remain unchanged until end of July. As workplaces begin to reopen there will be greater flexibility in the scheme. There is no differentiation in businesses ordered to remain closed and those encouraged by government to reopen. New guidance has been issued on destroying spoiled wine. Similar to the destruction of spoiled beer, there is no need for a representative from the supplier to be present in order to destroy the product.
  • The Government will temporarily provide insurance for B2B transactions that are currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance.

2. WSTA is continuing to engage with officials and ministers right across Westminster

  • The WSTA last week met with Greg Hands MP and continue to liaise with DIT and Defra.
  • The WSTA has engaged with new BEIS hospitality team.
  • WSTA engaging with opposition (Lucy Powell MP) and London Mayor. Sadiq Khan’s recent letter to the Chancellor repeats WSTA lines on extension of definition of hospitality.
  • Continued engagement with other trade associations too.

3. It is clear that BEIS, through their new hospitality team, are actively working on preparations for re-opening the hospitality sector

The WSTA will source opinion from members on how they see/are able to cope with gradual re-opening of hospitality sector. Current focus for this team is around what is needed for frontline delivery of hospitality services, but the WSTA continues to underline that suppliers working to keep hospitality businesses stocked. WSTA will be making the point that there are questions around the financial viability of full-scale work to supply a hospitality sector that is able to operate only at a reduced capacity.  

4. Coronavirus is presenting some licensing challenges

The WSTA is aware of difficulties around PPE and the sale of alcohol. Current approach around facemasks and licensing requirements should remain the same – Apply Challenge 25 and if no ID is presented and it is suspected the customer may be underage, there should be no sale. The WSTA has learned of some retailers suggesting that facemask should be removed for positive identification before sale of alcohol can take place, whilst others have said they wouldn’t ask for the mask to be removed.

Licensing guidance has been provided by Government around sale of alcohol, and opening hours. Recent efforts to allow for earlier sale of alcohol in Scotland to aid keyworkers have been rejected, whilst there is currently a different scheme in Northern Ireland’s shops selling alcohol.  

5. WSTA wants your feedback

Have you secured loans, or convinced your Local Authority to grant you business rates relief as they recognise your value to the hospitality sector?

How is your business coping with risk management, and completing risk assessments in light of Coronavirus guidance issued this week by the Government? The WSTA has provided guidance on its website.

The WSTA wants to provide as much information and feedback in their discussions with Government as possible, so that they are clear on the risks and challenges associated with a (likely) phased and managed re-opening of the hospitality sector.

Tell us your thoughts –

1. The government has announced a ‘bounce back’ loan scheme

As of next Monday, businesses of any size will be able to apply for a loan from £2,000 up to £50,000, which will be 100% government-backed. This new loan scheme differs from previous schemes in that 100%, rather than 80%, is backed by the government. These new loans will be interest-free for 12 months, and the terms of the loan will run for up to 6 years. If turnover is below £200,000 annually, that business is eligible only for a loan equating to 25% of their turnover, rather than a full £50,000

The WSTA continues to make the point to government and in the media that this government supports represents loans, and will have to be paid back down the line. The WSTA is focused on broadening the definition of hospitality so that those in the supply chain can access the same support that others in the sector have so far enjoyed.

2. The WSTA’s priority is to liaise with government to ensure that they use a broader definition of hospitality – one that includes on-trade suppliers

To date, one on-trade supplier has been given a business rates holiday by Lambeth Council. The WSTA is pushing for centralised advice on this issue so that other on-trade suppliers can access business rates relief during the Coronavirus pandemic. It is clear that this support must be extended more widely to suppliers of the hospitality sector.

WSTA members should write to both their local MP and Local Authority citing the example of an on-trade supplier being given the business rates relief afforded to pubs, bars and restaurants as part of the government’s support for the hospitality sector.

The WSTA is again urging members to contact their MP on this issue. The WSTA has MP letter templates available for members – contact for more information.    

3. The WSTA Coronavirus webinar will move to fortnightly from now on, with the WSTA broadening the topics covered in its series of webinars as the WSTA will, from next week, turn greater focus to non-Coronavirus related issues

As well as a fortnightly Coronavirus webinar, taking place at 11am every other Thursday, the WSTA will be running an additional ‘hot topic’ webinar each week at 11am on Wednesday.

This week, the WSTA held a webinar on Incoterms and next week, the focus will turn to the Transition period - looking at where we want the wine and spirit industry to be as Britain exits the Transition period with the EU at the end of this year. This webinar will focus on what the WSTA is asking of government and what wine and spirit businesses need to do to prepare and you can register here.

4. A review of alcohol taxation is still expected – once the UK has left EU

The government’s policy is that the UK leaves the EU at the end of the Transition period, but business is beginning to call on the government in light of the current climate to commit to seeking an extension to the Transition period.

The WSTA is focused on outcomes rather than calling for an extension – the wine and spirit industry must be ready for the date the Transition ends, regardless of when that is.

The WSTA is speaking with government - any review must respect international definitions of wines and spirits, the system of taxation must be simpler and fairer. The WSTA has a wide membership base and is well placed to advise on this issue.

5. The Drinks Trust has so far raised over £500,000 as part of its Coronavirus appeal

This figure could well double, Michael Saunders predicted. The Trust has also seen an uptick in donations for non-Coronavirus related funds. Thank you to everyone for their continued support.

The WSTA this morning held its weekly Coronavirus webinar, updating members on WSTA activity and answering questions posed by members.

It is becoming clear that the country is now moving into another phase of its response to Coronavirus, with an increasing focus on public health – the majority of government support has already been announced, although some tweaks and changes may still announced, as was recently seen with the extension of the furlough scheme. The WSTA anticipates fewer announcements on packages of support in the coming weeks.

1. Will hospitality be the last sector to open, and how will it impact suppliers? We are still unsure as to when businesses may be able to re-open, or what restrictions will still be in place for venues and businesses. Some venues and businesses are better suited to maintaining social distancing measures than others, and businesses may need to adapt and be flexible around partial openings, capacity restrictions and curtailed opening hours. There has also been extra complexity added to supply chain as a result of changing demand. It is clear that government is guided by science on when and how venues and businesses can re-open.

2. How has demand suffered as a result of Coronavirus? Consumers are using different channels (online), and there is no on-trade sales currently, but demand has remained stable. There is the suspicion that some consumer stockpiling of alcohol took place in the early part of lockdown.

3. Will the government’s furlough scheme be extended, or operate with greater flexibility? The scheme has already been extended for 1 month. The hope is that as measures are gradually lifted the furlough scheme will evolve as the operating restrictions placed on businesses evolves. The WSTA is asking for greater flexibility, and other associations like the CBI are too.

4. What support is available for the hospitality sector? New BEIS team dedicated to helping the hospitality sector, which should help WSTA and others make their asks of government clear. Treasury will continue to make announcements but the WSTA is engaging with wider government departments to ensure voice is heard and concerns of members are acted upon by government departments.

5. Will the government seek an extension to the UK’s transition period as it leaves the EU? Trade talks resumed this week between UK and EU officials. The CBI and NFU have already called for an extension. There are 3 sessions scheduled, although prior to the outbreak of Coronavirus 9 were scheduled. Talks have been compromised as both lead negotiators have suffered with Coronavirus. The government is currently insisting they will not seek an extension. The WSTA’s position is that an extension is the correct decision, but publicly the WSTA will not be the first to call for this – the government’s support for our sector during the outbreak is welcome and this is an inopportune time to be a lone voice against stated government policy.

We are now into our third week of WSTA COVID-19 webinars. If you missed this morning’s Q+A, here is a roundup of the key topics that were discussed.

1. Should I provide face masks for my staff?

The social distancing guidelines put in place by government advise that face masks should only be necessary in clinical scenarios. However, there may be situations in which staff might be in closer proximity whilst at work and are unable to maintain the social distancing guidelines. In those situations, providing face masks might be a good option and help make staff feel more comfortable in the working environment.

2. Can B2B companies sell direct to consumers?

There are a couple of options (and possible issues) when changing operations to focus on B2C sales:

  • Businesses must have the correct retail licence. If you have retail shop or the option to convert space for retail operations, this space must have a premises licence and a designated premises supervisor with a personal licence to sell alcohol.
  • If operations are solely online sales, the location from which the alcohol will be despatched must have a premises licence. You do not need a licence for the location at which the order was taken.
  • Age verification must be carried out at the point of sale, whether that sale is in person or online. Challenge 25 will apply for in person sales; for online sales, you will need an age verification policy and put in place a digital verification process, usually an automatic age check on the bank card used for payment.
  • In addition to the standard consumer rights to return defective goods, online sales must include a cooling off period, whereby consumers have the right to return goods up to 14 days after delivery.

3. Have there been any global supply chain issues reported?

Thankfully, the WSTA has only heard of one supply chain issue, and this is in relation to exports of wine from South Africa where exports had been suspended and, while the export ban has now been lifted, there will be a backlog of shipments. (nb information on the lifting of the export suspension was received after the webinar). In the UK, there has been reported only minor delays at ports due to staff shortages.

If you have heard of any supply chain issues, be it in the UK or globally, please do let us know by emailing Government is very interested in hearing of any supply chain issues so we will feed back to Government any issues raised with us directly.

4. How will the new Labour frontbench try to challenge the Government?

The new Labour leader and shadow cabinet all have extensive experience and will all be able to offer challenge and scrutiny for the current Conservative government.

On COVID-19 policy, there is clear intention that the Conservative government wish to work as closely as politically possible with the shadow cabinet. Currently, the government is relying on experts to inform its Coronavirus response and this is likely to continue.

On Brexit, it is still too early to speculate however, there has been increasing noise around a delay. On other tax policy, there has yet to be any detail on how the government plans to recoup the vast sums of money put aside for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Payments deferred under the Time to Pay scheme are now being requested?

Unfortunately, there have been a number of reports of WSTA members who successfully deferred their March duty payment now being asked by HMRC to pay up. The WSTA worked proactively with Treasury to make sure the deferment of duty payments was included as part of the Time to Pay scheme, but it is clear that this still has not filtered down to all parts of HMRC.

If you receive a request from HMRC to pay your March duty payment having already agreed with them a deferment, we would suggest challenging them on this and asking to alternatively discuss agreeing a payment plan. If you have any issues in deferring payments (April VAT payment due 15th and duty shortly thereafter), please email for advice.

Our second WSTA weekly COVID-19 live Q+A webinar took place yesterday – and it was the first that was also open to non-WSTA members. Miles Beale, Simon Stannard, and David Richardson were again available to answer questions from industry.

All businesses are feeling the far-reaching effects of the developing Coronavirus pandemic so future WSTA COVID-19 Q+A webinars will remain open to all wine and spirit businesses however, only WSTA members will have access to the full recording of the webinar.

1. When will the furlough scheme be open?

The Government recently released guidance on how the new Coronavirus job retention scheme will work. A copy was sent to WSTA members earlier this week and can be found here for reference. After further correspondence with the WSTA, it was confirmed that the scheme is due to be ready by the end of April and all payments will be backdated to the beginning of March.

2. Struggling to get a Small Business Loan under the scheme?

The support that Government has announced has been generous and unprecedented however, businesses around the UK are finding it difficult to gain access to finance options such as the Small Business Loan (for those companies with turnover under £45m). Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, raised this issue during the daily press conference and made it clear that Government expected Banks must be flexible during this moment of crisis. He also announced that further guidance will be released today on this topic. Hopefully this will help business to gain access to the additional funding they need.

We will update the WSTA COVID-19 WebHub as soon as this new guidance is released. All previous guidance and updates can be found here.

3. Should the WSTA still continue to pursue the suspension of Duty payments?

The government has not announced any direct assistance for businesses that are struggling with cashflow, only deferment of payments or loan schemes. Deferment of duty was confirmed to be part of the Time to Pay Scheme, but you must have contacted HMRC to agree on deferment terms.

A suspension of excise duty for 6 months would help by injecting cash into those businesses most at risk. We will be continuing to lobby Government as this issue is of particular concern to our sector.

4. Are there any plans for how social distancing will be relaxed and when will the on trade be allowed to reopen?

The WSTA is in close contact with other industry trade associations such as UKHospitality and the BBPA, as well as Defra and the wider Government. So far, we have not heard any communication on when or how social distancing will be relaxed. However, we believe it is unlikely that businesses will be able to fully reopen straight away.

The WSTA is therefore asking businesses to think about the possible issues that a staggered relaxation of social distancing measures might create for them. For example, how and when the furlough scheme would cease could mean that businesses need further support to cover full time employees if businesses are only able to partially reopen.

Please email to discuss further.

5. Brexit transition work still goes on...?

Although it is clear that Defra is currently – and rightly - focusing on COVID-19, the WSTA is not taking a backseat when it comes to getting industry ready for trade in 2021.

David Richardson attended the latest Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC). HMRC, Border Force and other government departments are still looking in considerable detail at what border arrangements will be after the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. Work is also still ongoing on the move from the current customs declaration system, CHIEF, to the new system, CDS (Customs declaration service).  

Next Week's webinar

The next webinar will take place at 11am on Thursday 9 April. Register here:

Submit your questions in advance:

Today, the WSTA ran its first COVID-19 live q+a webinar. Members tuned in at 11am to hear the latest update and to ask their most pressing questions during the live q+a session. The WSTA team who were on hand to help answer questions included Chief Executive, Miles Beale, Simon Stannard (WSTA Director of Policy), and David Richardson (Director of Regulatory & Commercial Affairs).

WSTA members can view the full recording of the webinar. However, we wanted to make sure that non-members also received a short summary of the key questions and answers.

1. How long can duty payments be deferred?

In the Budget on 11 March the Chancellor announced the introduction of the Time to Pay Scheme which would allow businesses additional time to pay a number of tax returns. A number of our members reported that HMRC did not think this included excise duty. The WSTA intervened by contacting the Treasury who agreed to clarify the issue. For those WSTA members who were able to get through to the COVID-19 Time to Pay helpline, the majority were successful in deferring payments in principle and, in many cases, duty has been deferred until the end of June.

2. Are online retailers “essential businesses”?

As per the government list of businesses told to close, there are exceptions. Broadly speaking all online retail can continue and Michael Gove MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, has also been clear in media interviews that online retail can continue if staff can adhere to the Public Health England’s guidance and respect social distancing. As off licences are excluded from the blanket retail ban then those businesses supplying into the off trade should be able to continue to operate provided they respect public health advice and staff are able to maintain social distancing.

3. Have there been any issues with supply chains?

The WSTA carried out a member survey last week and responses so far have suggested that, although some goods are taking slightly longer – most likely due to staff shortages - there has been little disruption to supply chains. Demand in the on-trade channel has collapsed.

4. Can wholesalers fulfil for the on trade?

The government have been clear the although they have ordered restaurants to close, they have allowed for takeaways and home deliveries to continue. This point is therefore primarily a licensing issue – if a premise has within its license the option to supply off premise then wholesalers could fulfil. If in doubt, the premise should seek confirmation from their local authority.

5. With Government quite rightly focused on the COVID-19 response, what might be the impact on Brexit negotiations?

The UK/EU negotiations due to take place this week have been cancelled. It is too early to say if this might have an impact on Brexit. The government is standing fast to its line that we will be leaving the EU at the end of the year.

Despite the WSTA’s main activity over the past two weeks focusing on COVID-19, the work we have been and are undertaking to try to mitigate the impact on businesses when the transition period ends is continuing.