Brexit: UK distillers must ’embrace a brave new world’

31st January, 2020 by Owen Bellwood

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) is encouraging its members to “embrace a brave new world of trading” as the UK leaves the European Union (EU) today (31 January).

Brexit big story

Brexit will give UK distillers the chance to “embrace a brave new world of trading”, according to the WSTA

The UK will leave the EU at 11pm tonight, but as part of the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, it will enter into a transition period until the end of 2020. During this time, the UK will no longer be a member state but will still be subject to EU rules and regulations.

The UK and EU will have until 31 December 2020 to agree a trade deal, the UK will leave the transition period without a deal, and will then be subject to World Trade Organization rules on trade and security – which is essentially in line with the terms of a no-deal Brexit.

The WSTA said it “wants to get the best out of Brexit”, and has reiterated previous calls for the UK government to secure a free trade agreement with the Bloc, including zero tariffs on wine and spirits imports. It also said the UK should join the World Wine Trade Group.

The WSTA has also called for a revision to some wine and spirits definitions in order to “allow UK distillers to innovate”.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said: “It’s time to complete a trade deal with the EU – and move on. The wine and spirit industry must embrace a brave new world of trading.

“We need to focus on the opportunities and to steer government towards breaking down barriers on trade, while also reinforcing the UK’s position at the centre of international wine and spirit trading.

“We have started with some clear asks of government, which if practical steps are taken, we believe will keep the UK as the world’s number one spirit exporter, but could also see us take the top spot as the world’s largest wine importer by volume – from Germany.

“Our aim is to leave behind some clunky and outdated EU rules, while maintaining consumer confidence in the safety and quality of wine and spirits, and to find a way to free up trade through innovation and improved technology.

“Our ambitious agenda, combined with the support of government, gives us the opportunity to maintain and improve our position as global leaders in the wine and spirit trade.”

As the WSTA looks ahead to the future relationship between the UK and EU, it has stressed that “most EU rules need to be maintained to protect consumers and confidence”.

However, the association says there are “some unnecessarily burdensome EU rules” that apply to wine and spirits that could be amended to increase trade and consumer choice.

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