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MPs back bill to promote "best of British" by requiring UK diplomats to serve UK-produced wine overseas

Published:  15 March, 2017

A Sussex MP has proposed a new law which would force British embassies and consulates overseas to serve English and Welsh wines at events to boost post-Brexit trade.

In the House of Commons yesterday, Nusrat Ghani told fellow MPs that the UK must "grasp every opportunity to find new markets for our products around the world" by requiring diplomats to purchase and serve wines and sparkling wines produced in the United Kingdom at overseas functions and events. 

Her speech came a day after MPs and Lords passed a bill to pave the way for Theresa May to trigger Article 50.

In her speech to the commons, Gahni challenged British embassies to sell Britain through its produce, adding that serving English and Welsh wine was the perfect way to "oil the wheels" of new trade negotiations following the UK's departure from the EU with "English sparkle".

She said: "In a post-Brexit world, we must do all we can to get behind industries that show the sort of potential of our wine industry. And what better way to do that than to give the world a taste by serving UK produced wine and sparkling wine in our 268 embassies, high commissions and consulates around the world?"

The bill, titled the Diplomatic Service (United Kingdom Wines and Sparkling Wines) Bill, was given the support of MPs and has also received backing from trade bodies such as the WSTA and the UK Vineyard Association.

"English and Welsh wines seldom feature on the diplomatic service wine list and this would send out a very positive message that these embassies are supporting British businesses by purchasing British products to serve," said UK Vineyard Association's CEO, Barry Lewis, getting behind plans to for UK diplomats to serve wine produced from England's 133 wineries and 500 vineyards.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale, added that it was, "only right that we should encourage representatives from both the UK government and parliament to showcase the very best of British around the world."

Ghani, whose constituency is Wealden in Sussex, denied that English and Welsh production couldn't keep up with its more established competitors in Italy, Spain or France.

"UK-produced wine accounts for around 1% of the wine purchased in the UK, but the sector has high aspirations and great potential. It is no longer just a few people growing vines in their back gardens."

She pointed to Sussex's Bluebell Vineyard, which has more than doubled in size to 70 acres and 100,000 vines since opening in 2005, and Rathfinny wine estate which has outlined plans to produce more than one million bottles of Sussex sparkling wine annually within a decade.

The bill will be debated further on March 24.