The chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) is calling on the government to pull out all the stops at Brexit talks to avoid the UK walking away from the European Union (EU) with no deal at all.
The trade association, which represents more than 300 of the UK's wine and spirit businesses, said members need sufficient time to prepare their businesses for a post-EU trading environment. Miles Beale described failed negotiations as "totally unacceptable", as talks began today between the UK's Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
The WSTA warned that Brexit may result in contraction of trade with Europe which will mean the UK needing to look to increase non-EU trading partners, especially through new bilateral free deals with third countries, including improved terms that could only be agreed once the UK has left the customs union.
The UK is the world's second largest importer of wine by both volume and value and the industry supports 277,000 UK jobs directly and indirectly. The association stressed the most important issue "is for the UK to remain central to world wine trading post-Brexit". The UK is the largest exporter of spirits in the world, with an industry which supports around 296,000 UK jobs.
The WSTA says it has been working with its members to plan and take mitigating action to reduce the impact in the event of trade flows being disrupted in the short term. It emphasised the importance for the Government to "do all it can to minimise the impact of a cliff edge Brexit", including joining the World Wine Trade Group and negotiating bilateral agreements with Australia and the US to replace current EU wine agreements with those countries.
Beale said: "It is essential that the UK secures transitional measures allowing sufficient time for the necessary systems to be introduced and properly tested. Ideally a transition period would allow the UK to agree a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and then to make good progress on other bilateral FTAs with our major trading partners. Such a transition would give businesses time to prepare fully for a post-EU trading environment.
"Failure to agree terms resulting in a cliff-edge ‘no deal' Brexit would be the worst possible outcome and totally unacceptable. This would inevitably lead to disruption to trade flows in the short term and significant uncertainty for business in the medium term - until trade deals with the EU and the UK's other major trading partners could be agreed."
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