The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) attended the first of a series of food and drink roundtables with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) last week, led by Secretary of State Michael Gove.
Joining industry leaders, Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, briefed Defra ministers on what the drinks industry needs to maintain its global position and continue to grow.
He said: “The food and drink roundtable has given us the opportunity to get together with government and make them understand our concerns and highlight better ways of working together.”
Beale has also written a follow-up letter to Gove. “The UK drinks industry is incredibly important to the economy and we need to ensure government is listening to industry to ensure we maintain free flows of trade now Brexit negotiations are underway,” he said.
In his letter, he stressed the importance of avoiding disruption to historic trade flows and calls for him to push the ‘serve British’ message and help ease the “enormous and rising burden on UK businesses” by lowering excise duty.
He added: “Given the volume of goods going to and from the EU, our overriding priority must be to conclude an FTA [Free Trade Agreement] with the EU first… We would strongly support the use of interim arrangements following the UK’s formal exit… allowing trade to continue unhindered while FTA negotiations conclude.”
Over 99% of wine consumed in the UK is imported and in 2016 total sales amounted to more than £10b. The UK is the largest exporter of spirits in the world – more than one billion litres of UK spirits are exported to foreign markets – and the industry supports some 296,000 UK jobs.
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