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UK government delays introduction of VI-1 forms for EU wine

The UK government has delayed the introduction of the controversial VI-1 forms for EU wine being sent to Great Britain by six months.

It is the second delay the government has imposed on the legislation. So-called VI-1 certificates were originally intended to be required on 1 January 2021, but this was changed to 1 July. 

Now, the government has set the deadline at 31 December 2021. It means that EU wine being imported into England, Scotland and Wales will not require a form until next year.

The government has stated that there will be no change to the marketing standards requirements for importing wine into Northern Ireland from the EU. A VI-1 certificate is also not required when moving wine from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

The move has been welcomed by Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, who described the news as a “huge relief”.

“This is something the WSTA has been calling for to avoid wine price hikes, permanently disrupted supply and drastically reduced consumer choice from July,” he said. “The WSTA has campaigned hard to make clear to government that introducing wine import certificates would be damaging for our industry, especially its huge number of SMEs.”

However Beale acknowledged that there was still work to be done.

“A delay is merely kicking the can down the road – yet again,” he said. “Instead of prevaricating, ministers should be seizing this opportunity to help boost the UK wine sector, promote free trade and get a better deal for British wine businesses and consumers.

“There is absolutely no reason for introducing these new certificates. If we can do without these certificates for a year, then scrapping these unnecessary, EU-style rules and reducing red tape must be the right decision. What the WSTA would really like to do – as it has been asking for months now – is to work with government to scrap these certificates while ensuring sufficient traceability is maintained. Indeed, this would bring the rules for wine in line with all other alcoholic drinks products.

“It would also be an excellent first step towards abolishing all existing wine import red tape. This would ensure that Britain maintains its position as the central wine hub for the rest of the world – and would help substantiate this government’s Global Britain ambitions.”

As well as price rises for the consumer and reduced choice, the trade argues that VI-1 certificates could cost wine importers £70 million in extra fees in the first year alone. While the UK is considered a global wine trading hub, 55% of the wine sold comes from the EU, which is worth around £2 billion.

Beale told BBC Newsnight last week: “There’s no customs requirement for it, there’s no safety issue involved, no other alcoholic drink has the same type of form required. The government has even talked about introducing it electronically, which we [the WSTA] don’t think is necessary.

“We’d like to see no new form, electronic or otherwise, introduced… and the government could go one further and abolish all VI-1 forms that it requires for wine coming from outside the EU as well.”

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