The WSTA, which represents more than 300 businesses in the UK, called for a free-trade agreement to avoid “chaos” and cost increases for businesses and consumers.
The Prime Minister signed a letter this morning to be hand-delivered to the president of the European Council by approximately 12:30pm this afternoon (29 March), formally triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.
WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “The triggering of Article 50 signifies an historic moment as the UK begins a new journey. For our trade, this chapter will bring both challenges and opportunities.
“The WSTA will be working tirelessly to achieve our key aims: continued, tariff-free movement of wine and spirits to and from the EU, new, tariff-free trade agreements with priority countries outside the EU and equally safe passage of goods without extra checks at borders once we have left the customs union.”
Failure to achieve these aims risked considerably disrupting supply chains, causing “chaos” at UK ports and increasing costs that would be passed on to consumers, he warned.
“We stand together with our European trade association partners in our joint ambition to secure free trade flows. We have repeatedly said to Government since the referendum that the only way to achieve its aim for a frictionless Brexit is for the Government and industry to work in partnership.”
EU wines currently make up roughly 55% of UK wine imports.
Experts have repeatedly warned of the potentially damaging effect of Brexit on the UK’s wine and spirits industries, with many hospitality operators already reporting increased costs.
Wine regions that already operate in a ‘premium’ price category were likely to be more dramatically affected by Brexit, Jascots head of buying and marketing Adam Porter previously told The Morning Advertiser (MA).
Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, secretary general of EU trade association Comite Europeen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV), said: “To allow businesses and administrations to adapt to the new system of trade relations – a future EU-UK free trade agreement (FTA) – it will be fundamental that leaders on both sides of the Channel agree on a transitional period and on a FTA in a time frame that will reduce uncertainty as much as possible.”