Wine and Spirit trade bodies sign up to a united approach to Brexit

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association says it has joined up with trade bodies from across Europe to agree a ground breaking Brexit position paper.

While politicians refuse to discuss the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU, prior to agreeing the financial settlement, the WSTA says it has been working behind the scenes to secure the continued flow of goods post Brexit.

Partnering with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), spiritsEUROPE and the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins - the WSTA has suggested that it was up to industry to nail down key issues long before the Article 50 deadline and are calling on politicians on both sides to do the same.

With officials continuing to lock horns over Britain’s exit from the EU the trade has decided to take the bull by the horns and lead the charge.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale (pictured) said: “The WSTA is unique in its representation of both wine and spirit businesses. Both the European Council and the British Prime Minister have emphasised the need for the EU27 and UK to remain close partners in the future. There is little sign of any progress being made to ensure this happens which has led the WSTA and trade bodies throughout Europe to take the bull by the horns and publish a position paper to protect our shared wine and spirits industry.

“At the WSTA, we have been calling for transitional arrangements to give us as much time as possible to adapt to Brexit, with the aim of securing an agreement between the EU and UK that ensures frictionless trade, preserves fair competition and maintains consumers’ confidence in our products.

“We, like our partners in the wine and spirit trade across Europe, strongly support the UK and EU securing a comprehensive trade agreement that enables us to continue to do business and provide our products to consumers across the continent,” said Beale.

Unlike the politicians negotiating the divorce bill there is a high degree of positive integration and collaboration within the European wine and spirit sector who have worked together for the last 44 years, says the association.

In what is believed to be a first, the joint paper sets out the European industry’s shared Brexit requests and maps out how to overcome issues affecting the industry.

The WSTA says the wine and spirit sectors currently depend on the freedom of movement of goods, and also benefit from the freedom of movement of people and capital within the EU. These benefits are currently extended to the UK as a result of EU membership, and ensure smooth transit of goods across the continent.

The wine and spirits industry has come together to urge the EU and UK to reach a negotiated settlement that preserves trade flows and avoid border tariffs and related administration costs.

The paper is said to make clear that it is the united position of wine and spirit producers across Europe that no deal is an unacceptable outcome from negotiations.

A post-Brexit relationship should also look to preserve the high degree of harmonisation and convergence of legislation found in both the EU and UK markets, with continued harmonisation of wine and spirits definitions, wine making practices and mutual recognition of Geographical Indicators (GIs).

The trade bodies outline 46 existing spirit categories, including many that are deeply rooted in European culture and tradition, like whisky and vodka, and around 240 registered GIs that offer protection to cognac, scotch whisky and Irish whiskey.

The UK is the world’s second largest importer of wine by volume and by value and is a significant market for wines produced in the EU, whilst the EU represents a significant export market for British spirits.

Wine and spirits traded between the EU and UK are not currently subject to tariffs, and unless the UK remains in the Customs Union, or a Free Trade Agreement is negotiated between EU and UK, this tariff-free environment would change post-Brexit.

Jean-Marie Barrière, president of CEEV said: “We produce high-quality products – including PDO/PDI wines and GI spirit drinks – that support hundreds of thousands of jobs, investment, and significant bilateral trade between the EU27 and the UK.”

Joep Stassen, president of spiritsEurope said: “The continued success of our sector relies on the agreement of a framework for the future relationship; and the transitional rules that would ensure trade continues