WSTA: Spirits must plan for no-deal Brexit

19th September, 2019 by Melita Kiely

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has criticised the UK government for its “lack of political leadership” and advised the industry to continue preparing for a no-deal Brexit.

Brexit big story

WSTA has advised the UK wine and spirits industry to plan for a no-deal Brexit

Addressing attendees at the WSTA 2019 Industry Summit, held at the British Library in London yesterday (18 September), Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, stressed that the UK wine and spirits industry faced an “unprecedented” political climate.

Beale said: “In Downing Street, a lack of political leadership has been replaced by heavy-handed political manoeuvring. Disruption, drift and division seem to be becoming the new norm.”

Beale said that in light of recent events – specifically the publishing of the Yellowhammer report, the suggestion of “burdensome and unnecessary VI-1 import certificates for wine and “controversial” plans to introduce a ‘deposit return scheme’ for drinks containers – it suggests the government doesn’t understand the value of imports to the UK economy.

“We had been led to believe government had heard and understood our concerns, but recent announcements suggest otherwise,” Beale said. “As we have said throughout the last three years, we have to continue to prepare and plan for ‘no deal’.

“We’ve always said there will be significant short-term disruption, and this has been finally acknowledged by government once it was forced to publish the Yellowhammer report. Not a reassuring read.

“Timing could not be worse. Warehouse space is already under pressure in the run-up to Christmas and government seems hell bent on failing to act on the concerns of industry. So much for taking back control.”

Stockpiling

The WSTA has released a document, called Planning for a No Deal EU Exit: The wine and spirit industry’s response, which offers advise in the lead-up to the UK’s current scheduled departure from the EU of 31 October 2019.

One piece of advice that has been offered to producers is to stockpile to ensure supplies will meet demand post-Brexit.

Speaking on a panel at the 2019 Industry Summit yesterday, when asked whether his company was stockpiling in preparation for Brexit, Brad Madigan, MD Campari Group UK and WSTA board member, said: “Absolutely.”

He described Brexit as a “moving target” as “there’s no end date in site”.

“[Brexit uncertainty] creates costs, whether that’s stock to ensure continuous supply, whether staff, it creates challenges,” he said. “For us, we would like to see a direction, and then we can navigate what that direction is. We have a preferred outcome, but we are working to the advice of a no-deal Brexit.”

Brexit ‘nightmare’

Also speaking on the panel was Pierpaolo Petrassi, head of trading, Waitrose. He commented on the need to stockpile in order to prepare for lengthy delays at ports – which would likely prioritise fresh fruit and vegetables that the UK imports over “non-essential” items, such as wine and spirits.

“[Brexit is] a nightmare,” he said. “Wine and spirits will not be prioritised at the other end of the channel.

“Low consumer confidence affects everyone. If you’re selling something non-essential, it’s going to have an impact.”

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