WSTA calls for ‘urgent’ clarity on customs and border controls following Brexit vote defeat

The WSTA has called for “urgent action” to resolve questions on customs, border controls and migrant workers to keep businesses trading following the final defeat of the Prime Minister’s Brexit Agreement last night – but welcomed the news that wine and spirits would not attract tariffs.

In a series of tweets this morning, the WSTA reacted to last night’s events in Parliament in which an overwhelming majority of MPs (149) voted against Prime Minster Theresa May’s Brexit deal for the third time.

The UK is set to leave the EU in 16 days’ time and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier reportedly warned that the risk of no deal had “never been higher”, the BBC said.

Tonight, MPs will have a free vote on whether to block the UK from leaving the EU without a deal.

The WSTA welcomed the decision announced by government this morning that there would be a temporary suspension of tariffs on wine and most spirits in a ‘no-deal’ scenario, saying this echoed repeated calls for no tariffs throughout the year. Until the announcement this morning, it seemed customs controls would automatically apply for importing and exporting between the UK and the EU if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

However it warned that “far more than this would be required to ensure that wine and spirit businesses can deliver a free flow of trade.”

“Action is urgently needed to resolve questions related to customs arrangements, border controls and migrant workers in order for businesses to keep trading.”

“The rejection of the Prime Minister’s flawed Brexit deal throws wine and spirit businesses into yet deeper uncertainty; and for longer. With the Brexit deadline only a fortnight away it is imperative that MPs vote this evening – and then legislate – to avoid ‘No Deal’.

“Whatever happens next it’s clear that an extension to article 50 is required, which the UK government and the EU should agree as soon as possible,” it said.

“…Today parliament has the chance to listen to us again and say #NoToNoDeal

Regarding the temporary custom duty on imports, chief executive Miles Beale tweeted that “You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need…”

Last week Beale described tonight’s vote on Twitter as “a request for extension of we know not how long to do we know not what to arrive at an unknown destination.”

In a statement, the chief executive of the Food & Drink Federation Ian Wright CBE said the Commons defeat was “another body blow for the country and the UK’s largest manufacturing sector”.

“We can only hope that members of Parliament, tomorrow and on Thursday, will vote decisively – and act accordingly – to take a 29 March ‘no-deal’ exit off the table. We now need breathing space in which a clear way forward can be found,” he said.

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