‘Get a grip’ and confirm Brexit transition plan, WSTA urges ministers

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Warnings: the WSTA has expressed frustration at Government's 'chaotic approach' to Brexit
Warnings: the WSTA has expressed frustration at Government's 'chaotic approach' to Brexit

Related tags United kingdom

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has told the Government to “get a grip” and provide businesses with an agreed, carefully thought-out policy to reassure the drink industry’s “deep-seated concerns” over the “chaotic approach to Brexit”.

The UK is currently negotiating its exit from the EU, with the plan to leave in March 2019.

Since official talks began in June, discussions between the two parties have mainly focused on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens on the Continent, the future of the 300-mile border between Northern Ireland, and other general separation issues.

However, after several clashes between UK Cabinet colleagues over post-EU arrangements, WSTA’s chief executive Miles Beale urged ministers to “set aside differences” and produce a clear transitional plan for Brexit or, he said, trade would suffer.

Political posturing

The WSTA, which represents more than 300 companies, believes a transitional period is key to avoiding disruption to “historic trade flows”.

“The wine and spirit industry has had enough of political posturing and Cabinet rifts which have led to a flurry of mixed messages over what we should expect from the Government approach to Brexit,” said Beale.

“Put bluntly, we want Government to get a grip and put to rest some of the deep-seated concerns facing our trade by telling us clearly what they are going to ask for when negotiations get serious in the autumn.”

Transitional period

The WSTA said it had “argued continually” for a negotiated deal, including a transition period that would allow the UK to agree a Free Trade Agreement with the EU, claiming such a transition would give businesses time to prepare fully for a post-EU trading environment.

“It has been over a year since the referendum and over four months since Article 50 was triggered,” Beale continued.

“We have had nothing solid from Government since the White Paper and no coherent message about our trading future.

“Our industry needs to feel confident that there is an agreed, carefully thought-through plan for trade before we leave the EU. Without it businesses are just bystanders – increasingly frustrated ones at that.”

The WSTA represents an industry worth around £50 billion to the UK and supports more than half a million jobs in the UK.

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