UK trade will grind to a halt if goods have to be declared after Brexit, warns the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA)

Rebecca Smith
The WSTA has warned Dover and other ports will be beset by delays and gridlocks without frictionless borders
The WSTA has warned Dover and other ports will be beset by delays and gridlocks without frictionless borders (Source: Getty)

As Brexit talks draw nearer, another industry has taken the chance to press the government for a suitable outcome.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has warned that if Brexit negotiations, due to commence once Theresa May triggers Article 50 on 29 March, don't achieve frictionless borders, gridlock will become commonplace at ports and encourage the resurgence of alcohol smugglers.

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The industry body has voiced concerns that Brexit red tape will bring customs to a standstill and cause key ports to become hit with delays and gridlock.

The UK wine trade is worth around £17.3bn in economic activity and around 1.8bn bottles of wine are imported to Britain each year, worth £2.8bn. Of those, 55 per cent come from the EU, according to the WSTA.

The majority of wine imports arrive by boat and are transferred to lorries and distributed across the country. On average Dover alone handles 290 lorries per hour, carrying a range of goods.

While imports from, and exports to, countries from outside the European Union are subject to customs controls, goods from the EU are free to be moved on with no extra checks. When the UK leaves the customs union, it could mean more than double the volume of cargo that would be subject to inspection at British ports.

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Chief executive of the WSTA, Miles Beale, said:

We all want to avoid a cliff-edge situation and urge government to take industry advice on how to avoid a trade dead-stop and ensure the rapid transit of goods.

There must be clear and workable mechanisms in place to allow cross-border trade of wine and spirits from the moment we leave the EU. Anything else will result in huge delays at the ports leading to backlogs and gridlock. We must do everything we can to prevent Britain turning into a lorry park.

If this isn’t addressed it will mean misery on the roads for all and will also mean that wine and spirits will not get onto the shelves. If this happens it is not unrealistic to expect an influx of bootleggers looking to find more efficient ways of getting alcohol into the UK.”

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