WSTA joins food and drink giants at government roundtable

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association was invited to attend Defra’s Food and Drink discussions at a roundtable led by secretary of state, Michael Gove, last week.

Joining industry leaders across the food and drink sector, WSTA chief executive of the, Miles Beale had the opportunity to brief Defra ministers on what the drinks industry needs to maintain its number one global position and continue to grow.

The roundtable, held at Defra HQ on Monday (July 3), was the first in a series of meetings to bring together the people at the cutting edge of the UK’s food and drink sector and the influencers.

Beale said: “The food and drink roundtable has given us the opportunity to get together with government and make them understand our concerns and highlight better ways of working together. As a follow up to the meeting I have also written a letter to Mr Gove spelling out what Government needs to do to protect the UK’s status as the number one global hub for wine imports and the world’s biggest exporter of spirits.

"The UK drinks industry is incredibly important to the economy and we need to ensure government is listening to industry to ensure we maintain free flows of trade now Brexit negotiations are underway,” said Beale.

Also at the meeting was George Eustice, MP, who has kept his post Minister of State for Defra following the general election.

In his letter to Mr Gove Beale stressed: “There is an unequivocal economic argument that is in everyone’s interest – EU producers and UK exporters alike – to avoid disruption to historic trade flows.”

He added: “Given the volume of goods going to and from the EU, our overriding priority must be to conclude an FTA with the EU first…. We would strongly support the use of interim arrangements following the UK’s formal exit…allowing trade to continue unhindered while FTA negotiations conclude.”

The UK is an important market for the world’s wine producers. More than 99% of wine consumed in the UK is imported and in 2016 total sales amounted to more than £10bn.

The WSTA says the most important issue for UK wine businesses, and the 277,000 UK jobs that the industry supports, directly and indirectly, is for the UK to remain central to world wine trading post-Brexit.
The UK is by far the largest exporter of spirits in the world and the industry that supports some 296,000 UK jobs, directly and indirectly, can only invest and grow if trade flows are secure, according to the WSTA.

More than 1bn litres of UK spirits are exported to foreign markets, including more than 200m bottles of gin. Three out of every four bottles of gin imported around the world are made in the UK.

Last year UK gin sent overseas hit an all-time high, worth almost half a billion pounds.
Beale spells out the strengths of the UK wine and spirit sector in his letter to Mr Gove and calls for him to push the ‘Serve British’ message and help ease the ‘enormous and rising burden on UK businesses’ by lowering excise duty.

The WSTA represents more than 300 companies producing, importing, transporting and selling wine and spirits. It works with its members to promote responsible production, marketing and sale of alcoholic drinks.