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UK wine supplier moves business to France to mitigate Brexit costs

A British wholesaler who supplies the UK retail market is moving his business to the South of France in order to mitigate Brexit redtape, which he says has cost his business £150,000.

Cargo containers with European Union and British flags reflecting Brexit and restrictions in export and import

Daniel Lambert Wines, which was been operating for 30 years, imports around 2m bottles of wine to the UK each year to supply retailers including M&S, Waitrose and around 300 independent retailers across the UK. However owner Daniel Lambert is moving his family to Montpellier in France, in order to set up the business there so that he can import wines from the EU to his own company which is based in South Wales.

He told The Guardian that this was in line with the UK government’s own suggestions and was the only way to get around the “incredibly complicated” process and paperwork for importing alcohol from the EU to the UK after Brexit.

Being based in France will give the company a French economic operators registration (EORI) number which is required to export into Britain as well as the UK EORI that his British-based company needs for importing.

“What I’m doing will enable me to import and export into and out of the EU within the company itself, so that we mitigate all of the cost of importing into the UK,” he told the paper.

Around 70% of the company’s wines are sourced in France, along with Spain, Portugal, Austria and Germany. It also imports some wine from the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Lambert said that although business had boomed during the pandemic with revenues up £500,000, as UK retailers swapped nights out for drinking better quality wine and more cocktails at home, Brexit red tape had cost the company somewhere between £100,000 and £150,000.

He also noted that there had been a contraction in the number of hauliers prepared to import alcohol to the UK, due to the additional complexities involved.

“The premiums that are now being paid to move alcohol, particularly across the border, are quite incredible. Brokers have found themselves doing pretty much what they like in terms of charging, because so few are willing to do it,” he said.

Until Brexit, the UK was part of the EU-wide EMCS system, a customs database that kept shipping relatively simple and minimised the need for regulatory checks and procedures. However this changed when the UK left the EU at the end of the Brexit transition period, leaving British  importers and European businesses facing many more hurdles and costs.

Lambert has previously spoken out before about the level of paperwork involved in the new post-Brexit import system, taking to Twitter to vent his frustration over the bureaucracy, cost and preparations  involved, a post that was seen by more than 5.5million people.

He said that each consignment needs around  200 pages of paperwork  as each wine needs paperwork detailing a commodity code, depending on the variety of grape, the type of wine, the alcohol strength, the size of the container it is being imported in and whether it comes from a protected designation of origin, as well as information about the origin and the destination of the cargo.

“We were a pretty good little business, we were doing quite well, until Brexit came along,” he told The Guardian.

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