The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) has expressed concerns following last night’s rejection of the prime minister’s Brexit deal, claiming that article 50 should be extended to protect the interests of the beverage industry.
‘The outcome of yesterday’s vote was expected. The WSTA has been consistent in calling on the government and all MPs to avoid a hugely damaging “no-deal” exit on 29 March and to ensure that business can continue to trade as now,’ said Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA.
A significant amount of the alcohol consumed in the UK is imported from the EU, including 55% of wine. Thus, the uncertainty generated by the government’s insolvency is resulting in increasing frustration within the beverage trade.
‘If those 432 [MPs] could all write to @theresa_may with their realistic recommendations of amendments to the proposed deal […] perhaps then I could get a slight idea of how to run my business over the next few months,’ tweeted Martyn Railton, managing director of specialist beer importer Euroboozer.
Last week the WSTA urged the government to suspend all wine tariffs as a means of preventing the price increases that could stem from a no-deal Brexit. ‘Businesses will need time to adapt to any new future trading arrangements, and time is running out,’ Beale commented.
In response to Brexit-related uncertainties, businesses have started stockpiling, hoping to secure availability and limit price fluctuations.
‘We spoke to our bonded warehouse about nine months ago to make sure they had enough space for when we increased the amount of stock we were going to hold,’ said David Gleave MW, co-founder and managing director of leading merchant Liberty Wines. ‘We’ve been increasing our stock and will continue to do that into March.’
Meanwhile, Beale insisted that a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophically damaging for the beverage trade. ‘Extending article 50 is necessary to ensure Parliament can agree on the UK’s future relationship with the EU,’ he concluded.