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The UK government said on Sunday it would axe some post-Brexit red tape on wine imports following warnings from the trade that it would cause lasting damage.
The move to end requirements for VI-1 import certificates, which ministers said would save British consumers about £130m a year, was welcomed by the sector.
The red tape was a longstanding EU requirement that affected imports from so-called third countries, such as Australia, South Africa and Argentina. The rules were intended to protect the EU’s big wine producers from “new world” imports
But the UK and EU wine trade were dismayed when London announced it would adopt the VI-1 form after leaving the bloc. This would have extended the bureaucracy and costs to wines from France, Italy and Spain, prompting dire warnings from the industry about additional costs, delays and economic damage.
The EU supplies about half of the $4.4bn of wine imported into the UK each year. Ministers had previously insisted the additional post-Brexit cost would only add an average 10p per bottle to the retail price of imported wine.
But the VI-1 is particularly problematic for fine wine merchants, because the certificates require laboratory sampling, necessitating the opening of rare or expensive bottles of wine that cannot then be resold.
The decision has “re-set our trading arrangements with the rest of the world in a way that will enhance the UK’s leading position in the global wine trade”, said James Miles, chair and co-founder of wine exchange Liv-ex.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, described the move as “truly historic” hailing it a “truly fantastic outcome.”
He added: “We have spent more than two years campaigning relentlessly to avoid the introduction of new import certificates for EU wine imports on the one hand and scrapping the unnecessary and costly VI-1 wine paperwork for non-EU wine imports on the other.”
Victoria Prentis, the UK food and drink minister, said: “Cutting this needless red tape will place our businesses in a stronger position internationally, as they continue to grow.”
Imports of wine from the EU into Northern Ireland were unaffected by the VI-1 requirement due to the region’s status in the post-transition trade arrangements with the EU. Imports of other non-EU wines would be considered as part of wider discussions about the Northern Ireland protocol, the government said.