UK might lose wine ‘hub’ status post-Brexit

EU wine businesses are said to be looking “very seriously” at the UK’s status as an international “wine hub” for their bottling operations in a post-Brexit scenario.

Some believe that they may be forced to move their plants out of  the UK.

This was the warning from Simon Stannard, EU & International Affairs Director of the Wine & Spirits Trade Association, speaking to the Commons International Trade Select Committee  recently.

Some 850 million litres of wine are imported into the UK each year worth some £11 billion, where bottling wine in bulk and re-exporting it is a huge undertaking.

Wine is currently the UK’s fastest-growing export having risen in value by 177% in the last four years according to figures from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of International Trade.

global centre for bottling bulk wine, the UK claims to be ‘the hub’ of the global wine supply industry with the UK bottling some 50 million cases of bulk wine a year.

Much of the imported wine is reshipped back to the EU and markets further afield, particularly to the Far East – countries like China, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The UK houses a number of bulk wine bottling operations including Europe’s largest wine warehouse and distribution centre in Europe at Accolade Park which has the capacity to bottle one million bottles a day and which employs 500.

Figures from the UK’s Food and Drink Federation show a 10.2% increase to £456.1 million in the value of the UK’s wine ‘exports’ from January to October 2018 and they show a 21.9% increase in volume and a 10.2% increase in value in Q3 compared with Q3 in 2017.

How Brexit will affect this business continues to exercise the minds of all involved.

“If we move to a post-Brexit situation, if we have to cross a customs border, it’s more the bureaucracy – the cost of actually administering the scheme,“ Simon Stannard told the Committee.

Whether or not the wine suppliers may feel forced to move their bottling plants from the UK remains to be seen, he told MPs.

Bulk wine bottled in the UK is then shipped back out to Europe, Norway, the Ukraine and Russia.

Such bottling operations make a ”significant contribution” to UK jobs and its  economy.

A no-deal Brexit would make this more complicated, he stated, primarily as a result of the added bureaucracy and tariffs in exporting wine back into the EU, once the UK was no longer a member.

“At the moment there’s a tariff on bulk wine coming into the EU that’s lower than bottled wine but once it’s in the EU, it can freely circulate,” he pointed out, but post parting the EU, tariffs would revert to those imposed by the World Trade Organisation.

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