WSTA slams Government for plans to introduce post-Brexit red tape for EU wine imports

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has criticised Government plans to introduce red tape which is expected to generate over 600,000 additional forms, costing UK wine businesses £70 million.

Earlier this year the WSTA met with officials from Whitehall to discuss how to cope with the extra paperwork for wines coming into the UK from the EU and for English wine being sent to the EU, which, the WSTA said, is anticipated to treble their workload overnight in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Following the meeting officials agreed to suspend paperwork on wine imports for nine months, should Britain crash out the EU without a deal.

But Government ministers are now planning to renege on the agreement, according to the WSTA. This would lead to higher wine prices, adding an estimated 10p per bottle of wine, and a reduced choice for consumers. 

In August the WSTA wrote to Michael Gove MP and Stephen Barclay MP, to spell out “in the strongest possible terms” the damage additional documentation and tariffs on wine would cause the UK wine industry.

The costly new form filling will result in an estimated additional £70 million bill for the wine trade, the WSTA said. 

If Britain falls out of the EU without a deal an estimated 500,000 new import certificates (known as VI-1 forms), all accompanied by costly a lab analysis, will be required to keep wine flowing in from Europe.

Wine leaving the UK for the EU will also have to complete a VI-1 form - meaning an estimated additional 150,000 forms which will put a strain on wine exports, the UK’s sixth most valuable food and drink export. 

Each form comes at a price – estimated to be around £20 per two-page document – which is filled out by hand. In addition, laboratory tests will cost more than £300 a time. 

Under the current system, as a member of the EU, the UK has access to the EU’s Excise Movement Control System (EMCS) which tracks alcohol coming in and going out of the country documenting consignments electronically. 

EMCS allows all alcohol categories to and from the EU to be moved on with no extra checks of costs. However, a no deal Brexit will mean the UK loses EMCS and this, according to the WSTA, is likely to lead to "significant confusion and delay" at British ports, where new paper documentation will need to be shown and checked.

The new paper-based regime will mean European wine producers will have to pay to fill out a form and on top of that cough up for extra laboratory tests for every consignment of wine sent to the UK, no matter how big or small.

The WSTA estimates it would take 12 full-time wine inspectors a whole year to process the half a million new VI-1 forms expected to mount up after a no deal Brexit. This does not take into account the other work carried out by Wine Standards who currently consist of a team of six regional inspectors.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA said: "The Government’s failure to honour commitments to suspend the VI1 forms is a real blow for the UK wine industry. The additional form filling and laboratory tests required for a no deal scenario will add a massive burden on exporters and importers alike. Wine inspectors will find themselves drowning in paperwork and consignments are going to be held up by unnecessary additional red tape.

"We can only conclude from this that Government doesn’t understand the value of the UK wine industry nor the value of imports in general to the UK economy. Imports are worth roughly the same as exports to the UK economy. The burden of import certificates for wine will not simply fall on EU businesses – their pain will be shared by UK importers and ultimately UK consumers. There is however a simple solution, suspend the introduction of pointless import certificates and use the time to develop modern import rules that are fit for purpose. “

Countries bringing wine in from outside the EU to the UK already fill out a VI-1 form but the larger wine producing nations – eg Australia, the US and Chile, have negotiated a simplified version of the VI-1 form to speed up the process. New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa wine producers currently have to fill out the full VI-1 forms which include an overcomplicated lab test.

Related articles: