Fifty leading UK wine importers, distributors and retailers, representing between them 70% of wine volume sold in the UK, have signed an open letter to the government to warn of the “burden” to business the introduction of VI-1 forms will create.
The letter has been sent to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food, Victoria Prentis MP, and all of the MPs on the International Trade Committee.
Written by David Gleave MW of Liberty Wines the letter has been signed by directors from a multitude of companies involved in many aspects of the UK wine trade, including; Farr Vintners, The Wine Society, Accolade Wines, Bibendum, Bancroft, the Pol Roger Portfolio, Gonzalez Byass, Mentzendorff and Liv-ex.
Altogether the companies that have put their names to the letter account for over 900 million, or 70%, of the 1.34bn bottles of wine sold annually in the UK.
The signatories cite their concern for the administrative burden on companies that has arisen since 1 January and which will become very much worse with the introduction of a further, paper-based, system in under six months.
As stated in the letter: “For those of us who deal with EU wines, our administrative burden has increased noticeably since 1 January 2021 due to the need for export documentation from our suppliers in the EU and import documentation when these wines arrive in the UK.”
“The introduction of VI-1 forms, a protectionist measure imposed on third countries by the EU, will add to this burden – even in their new simplified form. We were disappointed by your answer to a parliamentary question on 15 January in which you intimated that your Department is still considering the introduction of a wine import certificate for EU wines when the easement provided in the Food and Drink (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 expires on 1 July 2021.
“This would cause great damage to wine importing and retailing, as well as to hospitality, where over 60% of all wines sold are from European countries.”
Liv-ex’s managing director, James Miles, made clear the scale of the admin firms importing from the EU are now faced with.
He said: “Prior to leaving the EU a typical shipment for Liv-ex would require a document that ran to 200 pages – which seemed excessive. But today, for the same single shipment, the paperwork runs to 800 pages. The import form will add at least 200 more. Every shipment has effectively become a production of War and Peace. That is obviously ludicrous.”
As well as passing on extra costs to the consumer, the letter warns that the cost of new orders of wine from small European producers will become “prohibitive” and could end up diverting wine away from the UK, depriving businesses of important revenue streams.
The letter said that this would, “further weaken our already battered hospitality industry, whose revenues were boosted by sales of over £4bn worth of wine in 2019. The UK hospitality industry enjoys a justified reputation for the quality and variety of wines it offers to British consumers and international tourists alike, and needs our support in this difficult period.”
The letter finishes by urging the Under-Secretary to use the 1 July as an opportunity to “not add another layer of bureaucratic form-filling”, which was an “oft-stated objective of this government”.
To read the letter in full, click here.