WSTA: ‘unappreciated’ UK booze trade in danger of being undermined

The UK wine and spirit industry is under-appreciated and over-taxed by government and in danger of being undermined through Brexit, the CEO of the WSTA has claimed.

WSTA CEO Miles Beale

Speaking at yesterday’s WSTA conference, CEO Mile Beale argued that it was important to become “even more vocal” with government as the clock ticked on Brexit, to ensure the government listens, hears and acts on the industry’s information and advice.

He said the wine and spirit trade in the UK was “under-appreciated and over-taxed” – and this needs to change. Although alcoholic drinks categories occupied four of the top seven food and drink exports, this was largely unnoticed by government, Beale said. He argued that they needed to do more, particularly in light of Brexit and the need to negotiate successful trade arrangements with the EU.

‘It’s all too easy to see how a bungled Brexit would preclude any chance of taking advantage of the more distant opportunities of enhanced international free trade,” he said. “Above all we cannot stand and watch this industry go from being under-appreciated by government to being undermined by government.”

Beale argued that there had been too much posturing and too little progress on both sides, bringing the “real risk” that negotiations would break down.

“Business needs more clarity, government needs more support,” he said.

“Only yesterday the Institute for Government said Brexit without a transition deal could land business with £4 billion a year customs bill,” he added.

Chairman of the WSTA Dan Jago

WSTA chairman Dan Jago argued that following a dramatic year in which the Brexit negotiations has not “moved forward at all”, the industry needed to think broader, push harder and shout louder in order to make sure it’s message was heard.

Strategic plan

The WSTA used the conference to launch its new five-year strategic plan, which will underline it primary goals until 2022. As well as a new international focus, its four main pillars include working for regulation and taxation that is appropriate and fit for purpose, greater collaboration with partners across the industry and in government at a local and regional level and future-proofing its commitment to an even more socially responsible industry.

As part of this fourth pillar, it has updated its labelling advice in collaboration with the Portman Group and boosted its online resources on worldwide alcohol guidelines and calorie content.

“This is significant,” he said. “It goes further than we were asked to go, supports the UK and EU top public health priority of tackling obesity, while also recognising that adding endlessly to labels in to a sustainable approach.”

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