Wine trade victory in campaign against VI-1 certificates

Wine importers are celebrating after the government scrapped the controversial VI-1 certificates for all shipments into the UK, including those from outside the EU.

The forms were already in use for wines shipped from non-EU countries before plans were outlined for them to apply to EU wines when the UK left the EU on January 1.

That introduction was delayed for six months, but now the government has said they will not be required at all.

The main purpose of the form was to provide a guarantee that wines reached UK quality standards, with samples of each wine being submitted for analysis, in addition to the extra paperwork.  

In announcing the change of heart, Defra acknowledged industry claims that the certificates could add 10p to the cost of a bottle of wine, and that their abolition could save importers up to £130 million a year. 

Food and drink minister Victoria Prentis said: “The British wine industry has increasingly delivered fantastic wines at great value from all around the world.  

“Cutting this needless red tape will place our businesses in a stronger position internationally, as they continue to grow, while consumers can raise a glass to great wine from around the world."

The decision is a victory for the Wine & Spirit Trade Association which led the battle against them, and others in the industry who campaigned independently of the trade body, including Daniel Lambert of Daniel Lambert Wines and David Gleave MW, boss of Liberty Wines.  

The WSTA said that if the plans to introduce VI-1s for wines coming in from the EU had gone ahead, the requirement for imports to have laboratory analysis would have cost about £330 per shipment and may have put off smaller producers from sending their wines to the UK, reducing consumer choice.

Chief executive Miles Beale said: “This is a truly historic moment for the UK’s world-leading wine trade.

“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.

“The first would have cost the UK wine industry some £70 million [annually], reduced consumer choice and bumped-up prices.

“The second will increases those savings to over £100 million. It’s a truly fantastic outcome.”

“It is heartening to know that government trust the WSTA’s advice and are listening to the concerns of business, particularly SMEs.

“This is a major win for wine lovers and the UK wine industry. I am sure corks will be popping across the globe in celebration of this most welcome news.”

James Miles, managing director of wine trading marketplace Liv-ex, said: “I cannot overstate how important today’s announcement is to the UK wine industry.

“The WSTA and its members have been campaigning hard to stop UK officials from imposing unnecessary import regulations on the wine trade.

“Government has shown it is in tune with business by taking this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

“By removing these unnecessary and costly non-tariff barriers to trade it has reset our trading arrangements with the rest of the world in a way that that will enhance the UK’s leading position in the global wine trade.”

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