VI-1 catastrophe can be avoided, MPs are told

Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wine Merchants represents indies at meeting with All-party Parliamentary Group for Wines and Spirits

MPs have been warned that introducing VI-1 forms for wines imported from the EU will have a catastrophic impact on the independent wine trade.

This week the All-party Parliamentary Group for Wines and Spirits heard evidence from Hal Wilson, owner of Cambridge Wine Merchants, who described VI-1s as an illogical barrier to trade which should be scrapped without delay.

The meeting was convened by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, whose policy director Simon Stannard also gave evidence about the negative impact of VI-1 forms, which are due to come into effect next year.

James Miles of Liv-ex warned of the peril faced by traders who operate in the secondary market for fine wines. Nick Taylor of Direct Wines represented the online sector.

Hal Wilson

Wilson told the MPs that European wine makes up two thirds of imports to the UK, and that Wine Merchant magazine surveys consistently show that independents specialise in European wines more than any others.

He added: “We placed over 200 orders for 1,800 different consignments in the last 12 months for wines from the EU. All those consignments would have required a VI-1 under the proposed regulations.

“The cost of VI-1 forms is not known exactly, but will be passed onto importers by producers.

“No one in the EU has had to produce a VI-1 form before. Although laboratories exist that can do the eight different tests required for the analysis, none of them have applied to be authorised to carry out the work, nor have competent authorities been appointed to sign the certificates.”

Wilson estimates that VI-1 forms will cost Cambridge an additional £111,000 each year.

But he added that the burden doesn’t end there. “Back labelling requirements could incur a cost of £52,000. Customs declarations currently cost £90 per order rather than the £25 for handling Export Accompanying Documentation from the EU, an extra cost of £13,000.

“Paying VAT on entry to the UK rather than accounting for it through the quarterly VAT return would require extra working capital of £70,000. My business is not in a position to absorb the extra £250,000 per annum the proposed changes will cost.”

MPs heard that the costs would inevitably result in higher prices for consumers, and a political backlash. There are hopes that the chairs of the all-party group, Neil Coyle and Helen Grant, will now try to persuade George Eustice, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, to drop VI-1 forms altogether.

After the meeting Wilson told The Wine Merchant: “I think they were quite surprised at the depth of feeling. We made very forceful points because we’re genuinely terrified at the prospect of VI-1s.

“With the best will in the world, producers won’t be able to sell to us and can’t send samples to a lab for analysis – there’s no infrastructure. They would have to look for other markets for their wine.

“This could become a cause celebre – when people can no longer buy Chablis, Champagne or Rioja in January, that will be very unpopular.”

Independents are being urged to write to their MPs to explain the damage that VI-1 requirements will do to the UK wine trade. Download a template letter here.