UK wine traders face Brexit paperwork explosion

Employee at Chateau Bauduc - GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)

Extra forms and lab tests would drive up costs for importers and wine drinkers if there is no Brexit deal

British wine traders face an explosion of bureaucracy in the event of a no-deal Brexit — with no guarantee that there will be enough government officials to scrutinise the new forms.

Wine imported into the EU from the rest of the world must be accompanied by a so-called VI-1 form, which certifies that shipments live up to the bloc’s standards. This has affected Britain little to date, since it imports most of its wine from the Continent and, as an EU member, the wine flows in freely.

However, the UK will be duplicating European wine rules after Brexit, which means that consignments of French Beaujolais or Italian Chianti would have to arrive complete with expensive forms and lab tests if it crashes out of the EU without a deal on March 29.

Britain’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association, which represents traders, estimates that such a scenario would mean an extra 500,000 VI-1 forms per year for wines coming from Europe. And British wine producers would have to fill out some 150,000 forms per year when selling into Europe: Their exports were worth some £189 million in 2016, according to the WSTA.

Each two-page form must be filled out by hand and exporters would have to pay — WSTA thinks the sum would amount to £20 — in order to have inspectors look them over.

“hope isn’t a plan” — David Gleave

“It’s a huge amount of paperwork to be processed,” said the WCTA’s Tom Pratt, adding that it is an “arduous process.”

Foreign wine consignments would also need to have seven lab tests done in total — for actual alcoholic strength, total alcoholic strength, total dry extract, citric acid, total acid, volatile acid and sulphur dioxide — which would cost about £330, according to WSTA.

All told, the combined costs of the tests and paperwork would cost wine traders some £70 million, the group estimates.

Queue of hired haulage trucks near Dover – Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

David Gleave, the managing director at Liberty Wines, a London-based firm that imports wine from all over the world, said that his company has already stocked up in anticipation of “increased paperwork and long delays at Dover.”

“Will [British customs] wave through goods arriving from the EU for the first 12 months following a no-deal Brexit as they have said they will? We can hope they will, but hope isn’t a plan,” he said, explaining that no-deal costs would be passed on to consumers.

Besides costs and bureaucratic headaches, there are also serious concerns that the UK government simply doesn’t have the manpower to look over all the extra VI-1 forms that would be required. The WSTA estimated that it would take 12 full-time employees one year to process the extra 500,000 new forms.

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “It is in everyone’s interests to secure a deal with the European Union and that’s exactly what we are committed to.”

“We’re working to ensure trade in wine continues to flow smoothly in all scenarios, and discussions with the EU are ongoing.”

Source: Politico