The proposed amendment to the Agriculture Bill would reduce the burden of wine import documentation that could come into force due to Brexit on 1 January 2021
Currently, wine that comes in from Europe (55% of wine consumed in the UK is EU imported) is not subject to VI-1 checks and lab tests.
Certification rules will all change in the New Year, with or without a deal, when all wine imported from Europe will be subject to VI-1s.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has argued that the VI-1 forms are unnecessary and expensive, costing an estimated £70m to the industry (£330 per form for each lot of wine). It would also require a ‘major admin exercise’, reduce consumer choice on the primary market, and make the secondary market ‘impractical’ or even ‘impossible’.
The amendments come after a statement from the government which claimed that the cost of VI-1 forms would be 'nil or negligible', a claim which the UK wine industry has strongly contested.
'Leaving the EU offers a major opportunity to cement the UK as the world’s wine hub,' said Lord Holmes, who tabled the amendments. 'The VI-1 is not fit for purpose for the UK outside of the EU, and by initially removing the requirement for a limited period after the transition period, the UK can lead the way by creating a new, simplified, electronic wine passport which facilitates trade from all over the world and opens up new opportunities for this Great British industry.
'Wine is the UK’s sixth biggest food and drink export, worth around £650m,' he continued, 'and by making trade easier and removing unnecessary prescriptive EU rules, we can boost the UK’s place as a world-leader in wine and ensure consumers can continue to buy a wide and exciting range of wine from all over the world.'
Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, voiced the trade body's positive reaction to the debate: 'We are extremely pleased that the House of Lords has chosen to debate the introduction of the controversial VI-1 certification for wine coming into the UK from the EU.
'It is entirely within the government’s gift to avoid imposing these complicated, costly and unnecessary checks. Politicians need to better understand this issue, which if it isn’t handled properly will see the UK’s world leading wine industry facing a catastrophic disruption to trade.'