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Wine-lovers to save £130m as Brexit frees imports from red tape

·3-min read
wine bottles
wine bottles

Wine-lovers are set to save about £130m per year as the Government uses its new Brexit freedoms to chop EU red tape on imports.

Each bottle could become 13p cheaper, according to the industry, thanks to the abolition of the VI-1 forms - a bureaucratic exercise which includes lab tests to verify the acidity of the wine, something which is not done for other drinks such as beer or spirits.

The Government is set to scrap the requirement for imports from outside the EU to come with the certificate, and has also abandoned its previous plans to impose the rule on wines coming from the EU to Britain.

Officials estimate the saving for consumers at £130m, while the industry believes it will save £100m on non-EU wines and avoid imposing costs of £70m on those from the continent.

However, British wine producers will still have to incur the cost of certification for sales into the EU.

Of all wine consumed in the UK, 99pc is imported. Of that, 55pc comes from the EU, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

It has long argued that the paperwork is simply a barrier to protect EU winemakers from foreign competitors.

“This is a truly historic moment for the UK’s world-leading wine trade. We have spent more than two years campaigning relentlessly to avoid the introduction of new import certificates for EU wine imports on the one hand and scrapping the unnecessary and costly VI-1 wine paperwork for non-EU wine imports on the other,” said Miles Beale, the industry group’s chief executive, warning that applying the forms to EU wines would have “reduced consumer choice and bumped up prices”.

“It’s a truly fantastic outcome. This is a major win for wine lovers and the UK wine industry. I am sure corks will be popping across the globe in celebration of this most welcome news.”

The change is set to come in as soon as it can be legislated.

Ranil Jayawardena, the international trade minister, said the change on imports shows the benefits of Brexit, which frees the Government to scrap red tape which imposes costs on individuals and the wider economy.

“It’s fantastic that the British people will no longer have to pay for unnecessary bureaucracy when they buy a bottle of wine,” he said.

“Trade is key for economic growth and levelling up the country. Through our trade deals, we are making it easier for British consumers to access to top-quality products from around the world – including wine – and we are bringing down foreign trade barriers to open up even more opportunities for British businesses to succeed overseas.”

Victoria Hewson at the Institute of Economic Affairs said the rule change sets a good example for the rest of government.

“Getting rid of bureaucracy on imports of wine is very welcome and there is lots more low-hanging fruit in the customs code and other import regulations that can be tackled.

“But we should take care that these useful steps are not outweighed by the torrent of new interventions that the Government seems to have in mind across the economy and into people’s private lives,” she said.

“Hopefully the Government is also considering the implementation of the ban on importing chilled meats which is due to come into effect this autumn. This is the UK version of the EU law that would prevent sausages being sent to Northern Ireland, a situation which clearly illustrates how such rules are arbitrary and punish consumers.”

Is this a sign of what's to come for post-Brexit Britain? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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