Beer importers would drastically cut the number of brands they bring into this country, while UK brewers would dramatically reduce exports, the inquiry into beer tax fraud heard.
Miller Brands UK managing director Gary Haigh said importers would be “under pressure” to stop importing around 2,000 of the 2,200 beer brands that are shipped into the UK.
Speaking to the panel of MPs on the inquiry last week, he listed the products that his company would stop bringing to Britain if the proposals go ahead. “We would remove [Belgium beer] St Stefanos. We would remove Peroni Gran Reserva, we would remove Peroni Red, we would have a very close look at the Pilsner Urquell brand,” Haigh said.
“We would stop supplying bottles to the Channel Islands and we would also stop supplying Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell into the Republic of Ireland.”
Haigh said the reason would be the extra cost of creating different lines, some with duty stamps and some without. “I think [the duty stamp proposal] is going to create complexity, I think it’s going to create bureaucracy, and I think it’s going to bring a range of unintended consequences and a reduction in consumer choice,” Haigh said.
The inquiry also heard that the duty stamp requirement would force Shepherd Neame to abandon about 90% of its exports.
Tom Falcon, production and distribution director at the Kent-based brewery, said the requirement would mean a company like Shepherd Neame could not simply send across bottles from existing batches abroad. Instead it would have to produce new, ‘short’ lines that didn’t include the stamps.
“Our ability to be able to transport [drinks] for export and take opportunities in other markets becomes unviable,” Fallon said. “We would be looking at reducing export SKUs [stock keeping units] from around 40 to around four. We currently export to 20 countries. I don’t know how many that would reduce to.”
Speaking on behalf of the Independent Family Brewers of Britain, Fallon said that he believed fraud was largely within small independent wholesalers and “some of the illicit wholesale trade”.