WSTA chief wants full Brexit 'divorce'

19 June, 2017

Wine and Spirit Trade Association CEO Miles Beale, has called for the government to follow through with its Brexit negotiations.

As the formal face-to-face talks between the UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier get underway, the WSTA wants a fully negotiated ‘divorce’ settlement.

Beale said: “While there has been a great deal of speculation over recent days about what the election result means for Brexit negotiations, the WSTA’s position remains unchanged. 

“We have long argued for a negotiated deal, including a full ‘divorce’ settlement and agreement on the terms of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU.”

The trade association, which represents more than 300 of the UK’s wine and spirit businesses, said its members needed sufficient time to prepare their businesses for a post-EU trading environment.

The WSTA has also warned that Brexit may result in contraction of trade with Europe, meaning the UK would need to increase non-EU trading partners, including improved terms that could only be agreed once the UK has left the customs union. 

Beale added: “It is essential that the UK secures transitional measures allowing sufficient time for the necessary systems to be introduced and properly tested.

“Ideally a transition period would allow the UK to agree a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and then to make good progress on other bilateral FTAs with our major trading partners. Such a transition would give businesses time to prepare fully for a post-EU trading environment.”

The UK is currently the world’s second largest importer of wine by both volume and value. The most important issue for UK wine businesses and the 277,000 UK jobs that the industry supports is to remain central to world wine trading post-Brexit.

The UK is also the largest exporter of spirits in the world and the industry, which supports 296,000 UK jobs, can only invest and grow if trade flows are secure.

Beale continued: “Failure to agree terms resulting in a cliff-edge ‘no deal’ Brexit would be the worst possible outcome and totally unacceptable.

“This would inevitably lead to disruption to trade flows in the short term and significant uncertainty for business in the medium term - until trade deals with the EU and the UK’s other major trading partners could be agreed.

“EU politicians have a responsibility to our industry to deliver a Brexit that in no way disrupts the long established trading patterns on which we all rely.”

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