UK delays Brexit rules that will cost wine industry £70m a year

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
'The government’s actions are a victory for common sense,' according to the wine industry. Photo: AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu

The UK government has chosen to temporarily postpone “nightmare” post-Brexit paperwork requirements that would have added 10p to the price of a bottle of wine.

The Wine and Spirit Association said on Monday that the move was a “huge victory” for wine businesses and consumers.

The suspension of the import certification requirements, which would have required companies to submit extra forms for wine coming from the EU, will save the wine industry roughly £70m a year, the association said.

It had warned that the requirements would have damaged the industry and “massively restricted consumer choice.”

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, wine importers will not have to supply the forms, known as VI-1s, for nine months.

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They will also not be needed during the transition period provided for in prime minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, which will run until December 2020 if parliament approves his deal.

But the paperwork requirements will come into effect after the transition period unless the government grants a further extension.

The VI-1 form is already required for wines coming from outside of the EU, such as Argentina, the US, and Australia. European wines account for more than half of bottles imported to the UK.

The move comes after heavy lobbying from the industry, which had met with government officials regarding the matter.

“The government’s actions are a victory for common sense and will be met with a sense of relief by the UK wine industry as the threat of a £70m bill has been removed, said Miles Beale, CEO of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

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“As we made clear in our lengthy discussions with government officials, the additional form filling and laboratory tests needed had paperwork requirements not been suspended would have added a massive burden on businesses and consumers alike.”

The association called on the government to cut duties on still wines for the first time since 1984. The environment, food and rural affairs ministry said it was working “closely” with the sector to minimise post-Brexit disruption.

“A no-deal Brexit resulting in the devaluation of sterling would significantly impact wine imports and the Treasury’s insistence on imposing harsh tax rises on wine all still present threats to an industry that employs some 130,000 people across the supply chain,” the association said on Monday.