Turnaround to suspend paperwork will leave wine industry with extra costs, says WTSA

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Government plans to introduce red tape expected to generate over 600,000 additional forms, thought to cost UK wine businesses £70 million, have been criticised.

Following the crunch talks with the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), Whitehall officials agreed the sensible solution was to suspend paperwork on wine imports for 9 months, should Britain crash out the EU without a deal.

However, the WSTA has learnt that Government ministers are now planning to renege on the agreement which, the association warns, will lead to higher wine prices – adding an estimated 10p on a bottle of wine – and a reduced choice for consumers.

The costly new form filling will result in an estimated additional £70 million bill for the wine trade, WSTA says.

When added to wine duty hikes, enforced by the Chancellor in February, as well as the possible introduction of wine tariffs, the devaluation in sterling and rising inflation, a no-deal Brexit will mean UK wine consumers face a budget busting rise in prices.

If Britain falls out of the EU without a deal an estimated 500,000 new import certificates (known as VI-1 forms), all accompanied by costly a lab analysis, will be required to keep wine flowing in from Europe.

Wine leaving the UK for the EU will also have to complete a VI-1 form – meaning an estimated additional 150,000 forms which will put a strain on wine exports, the UK’s 6th most valuable food and drink export.

Each form comes at a price – estimated to be around £20 per two-page document – which is filled out by hand.  And the laboratory tests will cost over £300 a time.

Under the current system, as a member of the EU, the UK has access to the EU’s Excise Movement Control System (EMCS) which tracks alcohol coming in and going out of the country documenting consignments electronically.

EMCS allows all alcohol categories to and from the EU to be moved on with no extra checks of costs. However, a no-deal Brexit will mean the UK loses EMCS which is likely to see significant confusion and delay at British ports, where new paper documentation will need to be shown and checked.

The new paper-based regime will mean European wine producers will have to pay to fill out a form and on top of that cough up for extra laboratory tests for every consignment of wine sent to the UK, no matter how big or small.

The industry’s ties with the EU run deep – 55% of wine consumed in the UK is imported from the EU.

The burden, particularly on small wine producers that often stock independent wine merchants, is likely to be too great and in some cases wine supplies from smaller vineyards into the UK are expected to dry up.

But the extra form filling won’t just leave the wine industry with a headache, the association says, UK wine inspectors will find themselves drowning in processing the paperwork.

Every handwritten VI-1 form will have to be scrutinised and stamped before wine from Europe is allowed into the UK.

It is estimated that it would take 12 full time wine inspectors a whole year to process the half a million new VI-1 forms expected to mount up after a no deal Brexit. This does not take into account the other work carried out by Wine Standards who currently consist of a team of six regional inspectors.