The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has warned the UK Government to expect “an influx” of booze bootleggers if custom controls are applied to goods imported from the European Union ahead of the triggering of Article 50.
The WSTA fears that Brexit red tape will bring customs to a halt
The trade body has warned that potential “red tape” brought about by the triggering of Article 50 this coming Wednesday (29 March) would “bring customs to a standstill, and transform key ports and surrounding roads into lorry parks”.
Without “frictionless borders”, it added, delays and gridlocks at ports will encourage the resurgence of alcohol smugglers.
Under current legislation, imports from and exports to countries from outside the European Union are subject to customs controls, but goods coming from the EU are free to be moved with no extra checks, safeguarded by the terms of the single market and EU standards.
Operations at ports are designed around the “just in time” principle, which means goods as delivered as they’re needed to meet customer demand, so there is no capacity for delay.. When the UK leaves the customs union, the WSTA warns, the volume of cargo subject to inspection at British ports could double.
“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,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA.
“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 to getting alcohol into the UK.”
WSTA customs expert, David Richardson, said maintaining the free flow of trade is “vital” to the British drinks industry.
“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,” he said. “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.”