WSTA chief slams UK government over Brexit

03 August, 2017

The chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Miles Beale has warned that ministers in the UK parliament need to set aside differences and produce a clear plan for Brexit or trade will suffer.

Beale urged the British government to “get a grip” and provide businesses with an agreed, clear, carefully thought through policy for the UK’s trading future.

“The wine and spirit industry has had enough of political posturing and cabinet rifts which have led to a flurry of mixed messages over what we should expect from the government approach to Brexit,” said Beale.

“Put bluntly we want government to get a grip and put to rest some of the deep seated concerns facing our trade – by telling us clearly what they are going to ask for when negotiations get serious in the Autumn.”

The trade association, which represents more than 300 companies, believes a transitional period is key, to avoid disruption to historic trade flows.

Beale added: “The WSTA has argued continually for a negotiated deal including a transition period that would allow the UK to agree a Free Trade Agreement with the EU.

“Then the government needs to make quick 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 WSTA represents an industry worth around £50bn to the UK and supports more than half a million jobs in the UK.  

According to the WSTA, the UK is an ‘incredibly important’ market for the world’s wine producers. It claims 99% of wine consumed in the UK is imported and in 2016 total sales amounted to more than £10bn.

Beale continued: “We have been encouraged by some recent comments made by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, but just when you think there is a plan in place another minster comes in and contradicts it.

“It is simply not good enough for business needing to plan for their future and that of their employees. It has been over a year since the referendum and over four months since Article 50 was triggered.”

The WSTA believes 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 association also says Britain is the largest exporter of spirits in the world and the industry which supports some 296,000 UK jobs, directly and indirectly, can only invest and grow if trade flows are secure.

Beale added: “We want to see the Government getting a grip, forming a plan, communicating clearly and taking it to the EU to get a deal that works for everyone”.

Keywords: WSTA, miles beale, Brexit

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