WSTA ‘worried’ work not being done to secure Brexit deal

6th July, 2020 by Melita Kiely

The chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said he was worried that more work is not being done to ensure a deal is secured before the end of the Brexit transition period.

Miles-Beale-WSTA

Miles Beale, WSTA chief executive, is worried more work is not being done to secure a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period

Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out earlier this year, Brexit – a topic that dominated the headlines in 2019 – has been overshadowed in the media. The UK officially left the EU on 31 January 2020 and is now in a transition period until 1 January 2021.

If the UK and the EU are unable to come to an agreement before this date, the UK will effectively leave the EU without a deal.

Speaking to The Spirits Business last month, Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said it was “entirely understandable” that Brexit has not been given the due attention it needs by the UK government, and the media, but that the trade body was “extremely worried that more work is not being done”.

“It was already an extremely short period of time we feel to get a deal done in a short transition period,” Beale said.

“I do have huge concerns that what was already very difficult to get done is now even harder to get done because attention has, quite rightly and sensibly and fairly, been elsewhere. So yes, we’re extremely worried about it.”

In May this year, the WSTA launched its Trade 21 campaign to highlight the key priorities to create the best possible outcome for the alcohol industry at the end of the Brexit transition period.

The launch was accompanied by a letter from the WSTA to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove MP, which outlined a number of priorities, including the introduction of a two-year implementation period for labelling changes from 1 January 2021.

“We’ve sort of relaunched our campaign around the next phase of what happens with Europe but also internationally under a Trade 21 banner, and

Brexit big story

The UK’s Brexit transition period closes at the end of 2020

we have a Trade 21 hub on our website,” Beale explained. “But the idea is to start thinking about the new trading environment and what we need by the 1st January next year and I’m extremely worried we aren’t going to get it.”

No-deal Brexit ‘looks likely’

One of the key concerns, Beale explained, is that if the UK ends the transition period without a deal, the nation would be ejected from the electronic system for moving goods around the EU, the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS).

“If we had a no deal, which looks, we think, likely now, first of all in 2021 you’re suddenly trying to move all your goods and you don’t have access to that system,” Beale said. “So anything you’re receiving from the EU or sending to the EU, we need something else and the only system we have available is the international one, how the UK trades more generally elsewhere.

“Frankly, that will be costly in terms of the number of people, but also in terms of documents etc. We’ve tried to do some quick calculations on this but we think it’s going to slow everything down; it’s just extra pain and red tape and cost, which frankly we really shouldn’t need to have. There’s absolutely no reason for it. So that’s the bit we’re worried about most of all I think.”

To read our full interview with Beale, see the July 2020 issue of The Spirits Business magazine, out now.

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