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Cambridge wine trader call for the post-July import forms to be scrapped

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Cambridge Wine Merchants Kings Parade, 2 King's Parade, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (44263071)
Cambridge Wine Merchants Kings Parade, 2 King's Parade, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (44263071)

The wine imports sector is feeling the full force of post-EU mayhem, says Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wine Merchants, who is demanding that the government scrap a proposed new piece of legislation for wine importers, the VI-1 – due to become law on July 1.

Cambridge Wine Merchants has outlets in Bridge Street, Cherry Hinton Road and on King’s Parade. A November order for 20,000 bottles of wine from a regular supplier in Spain has been held at a Norfolk warehouse for weeks awaiting clearance by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

“The 20,000 bottles have made it to their destination following a new HMRC form being filled in and HMRC is saying we need to complete the documentation for the arrival from Spain to the UK destination,” says Hal. “They’re in our bonded warehouse.

“It’s ridiculous. Before Brexit it was prepared in week one, in week two it was collected, and it arrived in week three. You’d plan for a month to be sure but I was expecting this delivery at the end of December, and this consignment is now overdue for the fifth week. We’ve got a little bit of stock left and January has been difficult anyway. Fortunately we can continue offering good wines to good people.

“Last week in the House of Commons Daniel Zeichner asked Victoria Prentis [Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food] when the new customs declaration service is going to be ready for use, as the current system is antiquated but HMRC has failed to produce a working digital service.

“The existing system uses software from 1992 – it’s a real pain and it’s not working.”

The Cambridge MP also addressed the issue of the incoming VI-1 certification, adds Hal.

“He asked about the import certificate because no other sector has this, and the UK government has decided to adopt something similar to this rather protectionist form on the rest of the world, so Daniel was asking if that was a good idea when the sector is already sinking in red tape and HMRC hasn’t even got a digital customs declaration service.

“The government said the new system would be running last year, currently it can be used from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland – it exists but not for the vast majority of 250m declarations that are going to be made this year.”

Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wines. Picture: Keith Heppell
Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wines. Picture: Keith Heppell

In October the government delayed the introduction of VI-1 certification until July 1.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), said: “We have campaigned since the Brexit vote for the government to understand the damaging implications of imposing import certification requirements on wines imported from the EU – including burdensome paperwork, laboratory tests and significant additional cost for businesses.

“The WSTA’s estimates suggest that requiring these forms could cost wine importers £70m in the first 12 months alone. We believe it is high time that ministers use the additional time the grace period provides to commit to abolishing the requirement for VI-1 forms entirely. This is the only way to meet the government’s stated aim of a level playing field for all wine imports, no matter their origin.”

Hal adds: “The government plans to introduce some sort of import form on July 1 unless we can make the case that it’s a waste of time and that’s what we’re trying to flag up: we import 99.5 per cent of wine we drink – though I love the wine we grow in this country.”

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