Air Miles

21 March, 2017

In June 2012 he took over the WSTA. “I had a year in Bordeaux. Without that I do not think I would have taken the job,” he says. “I would have thought I did not know enough about this industry.” But it has turned out to be a good fit. “I knew about the UK’s place, the trading history of this nation and the historical links with Bordeaux.”

Two weeks after joining, Beale had to deal with prime minister David Cameron’s decision to look at minimum unit pricing for alcohol. Thanks Dave.

He is tooling up now for a hard Brexit.

Sterling has devalued by 15%-20%, which has particularly affected the wine sector. If the UK exits the customs union and tariffs come in, that will hit wine in particular very hard.

The WSTA has recommended a 2% cut in duty that will help the trade.

Meeting with chancellor Philip Hammond, Beale says he told him the UK is a great deal more than a major net wine importer. From its rich history in developing regions such as Bordeaux, Cognac and the Douro, it is a strategically significant wine trading nation. Companies such as Accolade use the UK as a hub for northern hemisphere operations. There are between 300,000 and 580,000 jobs directly or indirectly involved in the wine and spirits industry.

When the duty was frozen on wine and reduced 2% on spirits, the Exchequer benefited to the tune of £250,000, says Beale. The chancellor was impressed.

As to lobbying government, such as on tax strips and minimum pricing, Beale comments, ruefully: “Ideas do not go away easily. There can be a right place and a right time. All sorts of reasons are likely to push. Politics can get in the way.”

the idea of “working hard to achieve nothing” seems a piece of nonsense but that can be the essence of effective lobbying.

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