MPs call on government support for English wine

MPs have called on the government to give more practical support for the UK wine industry to allow it to compete on an international stage during a debate in the House of Commons yesterday.

The Houses of Parliament (Photo: Flickr)

The Houses of Parliament (Photo: Flickr)

A group of cross-party MPs called on the government to address key areas of concern to the English wine industry, highlighting the high rate of duty on wines, export and planning constraints, the UK’s 2005 withdrawal from membership of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the need to promote English and Welsh wine internationally.

The MPs, led by Neil Parish, who is the ‘English wine champion’ of the UK Vine Association, highlighted the contribution the industry makes to the UK rural economy and its success and growth in recent years and said it was a “great opportunity” for the country. However, supported by a number of MPS whose constituencies include UK wine producers, he highlighted a series of problem, the greatest of which, was the punitive duty on wine. This stands at £2.08 per 75 cl for still wine and £2.67 per 75 cl for sparkling wine, excluding VAT, he said, and, echoed by cross party support, he called on the government to cut the duty on wine.

“Excise duty is too high in this country and punishes domestic wine producers the most, who pay duty even before the wine is sold,” Parish said.

The MPs also argued that producers should be offered more help to grow their businesses through tax concessions and help on planning, along with a staggered system of duty payment similar to those enjoyed by the cider industry and smaller breweries.

Trade & Exports

MPs also called on the government to promote English Wine to trade partners, urging it to ensure English wine was “a big Brexit success story”. One step would be to boost its visibility, both in Parliament itself and at British embassies across the world.

“Parliament’s bars and restaurants are selling French champagne and Italian prosecco, as well as wines from Chile to New Zealand. It is great to have these wines here, but we really must have our English wine here. Even worse, the House of Commons-branded wine is not actually from the UK. If we are going to promote English or Welsh wine globally, we really should get our own House in order first,” he argued.

Parish argued that it was also vital that the UK rejoin the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) in a call that echoed wine critic Jancis Robinson, who raised the topic in her keynote speech at the Cool Climate Symposium, and senior academics in the wine industry. He argued that the UK needed “a seat at the top table to help to construct the rules covering this global trade” and urged the government to reconsider is 2005 withdrawal.

Although farming Minister George Eustice referred the issue of wine duty to the Chancellor, he promised to look again at the issue of rejoining the OIV once the UK leaves the EU.

“If the UK had been on the OIV it would have been required by EU law to do what the European Commission told it to do. That, for a number of years, meant that the benefits of rejoining were questionable,” he argued. “However, obviously as we leave the EU, regain our seat on many international forums and are able to speak freely again, that is something we will look at again.”

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