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WSTA in pan UK-EU talks to ensure GIs protected post Brexit

Published:  13 March, 2020

By January 2021, when Brexit comes into force, WSTA, the UK’s drinks lobby group, will no longer be a member of the pan-European wine trade body, CEEV. But ahead of further UK-EU trade talks, the two bodies are uniting once more to lobby for the continued smooth trade of wine across the English Channel.

The WSTA and the CEEV (Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins), which represent producers, importers and retailers, are now hammering out a new Brexit partnership agreement to protect wine trade interests, Harpers has learned.

In the run-up to Brexit, both trade bodies came together in 2017 over the threat Brexit poses to the disruption to supply chains, potential new administrative hurdles, costs and tariffs.

But in addition to tackling these threats, the new Brexit partnership agreement will now also address the threat of regulatory divergence which could affect GIs, the imposition of the “dreaded” VI-1 regulatory form, the protection of intellectual property rights, customs procedures and wine labelling arrangements.

Simon Stannard, European affairs director at WSTA, said both bodies would call for the establishment of a new UK-EU committee that would oversee the operation of the partnership agreement.

It would, Stannard said, be a mechanism allowing wine trade partners on both sides of the English Channel to study and comment on a range of issues including any proposed changes to legislation governing the production and trade in wines and any changes to existing and future GIs in the EU and the UK.

Existing GI’s in the EU and the UK are protected in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, unless both negotiating parties decide otherwise.

However, the UK government says on its website that it is possible that the EU may decide not recognise GIs in the future. The same could equally be said regarding the UK government’s recognition of EU GIs.

Last week, UK-based Italian wine specialists, including Vinexus Ltd, voiced concern over the prospect of Australian Prosecco flooding the UK market post-Brexit and any impact this would have on the category in terms of quality standards.

In February this year, the Australian government announced it had granted AU$100,000 to researchers at Monash University to “explore the legal basis” for protecting wines with GIs in trade agreements.

Australia’s Prosecco exports are worth $60 million annually and are predicted to rise to $500 million over the next decade, according to Australia’s Monash University.

The eventuality of Californian Chablis and Australian Prosecco wine flooding the UK could depend on political horse-trading over any trade deals the UK would sign with the US and Australia post-Brexit and the timing of any such deals in relation to the trade partnership with the EU. Labelling and other non-wine laws that protect consumers would also impact such a prospect.

“If the UK and the EU fail to agree on terms of the future relationship, there is no guarantee the UK will automatically roll over protection for EU GIs or vice-versa, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will see Californian Chablis or Australian Prosecco on the shelves of UK supermarkets next year,” Stannard said.

CEEV general secretary, Ignacio Sanchez Recarte, this week played down UK importer concerns over regulatory divergence. “There is no need for alarmism over Australian Prosecco in UK market,” he said.

“We are happy and comforted that the Withdrawal Agreement foresees that the stock of existing EU-approved GIs will be legally protected,” he told Harpers.

The WSTA said that its immediate concern on wine was the threat of disruption to supply chains post-Brexit.

Speaking on any new GIs, Sanchez Recarte added: “Concerning new GIs, we will ask that the mutual recognition and protection of wines with new PDOs and PGIs, through a dynamic link to EU GI register is ensured in the new partnership.”

“Rules on enforcement of the protection of GIs (included ex officio enforcement actions) and coordination of controls between public authorities shall also be kept,” he said.

The WSTA-CEEV Brexit Partnership, which is expected be made public next week, will also call for existing labelling laws to be maintained for an extended transitional period of two years post-Brexit.

Brexit means wine bottles will have to mention the name and address of UK wine importers, unless a transitional period is granted regarding labelling laws.

It is uncertain whether the new Brexit Partnership paper will include a call to protect the European Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS), which tracks the movement of alcohol across the EU electronically, reducing the need for border checks.

Earlier this year, the CEEV warned of disruption at ports if the UK loses access to the EMCS. Access will be part of trade talks between the UK and EU during the course of this year.  

Once Brexit comes into force, the WSTA will lose its membership of the CEEV, but obtain observer status of the European wine trade body and will maintain a close relationship with European partners, the WSTA said.

Top image shows Ignacio Sanchez Recarte