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WSTA urges Government clarity to prevent Brexit chaos for businesses

Published:  03 August, 2017

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s chief executive Miles Beale has flagged up the “deep seated” concerns of drinks industry leaders over the Government’s apparent lack of clear strategy over Brexit.

In a strongly worded statement that highlighted a “chaotic approach” from Government, while warning that “ministers need to set aside their differences”, Beale stressed the necessity for a clear strategy and communication to ensure businesses can continue to trade as smoothly as possible though a period of transition.

“The wine and spirit industry has had enough of political posturing and Cabinet rifts which have led to a flurry of mixed messages over what we should expect from the Government approach to Brexit,” said Beale.

“Put bluntly we want Government to get a grip and put to rest some of the deep seated concerns facing our trade – by telling us clearly what they are going to ask for when negotiations get serious in the Autumn.”

His comments come shortly after outgoing French ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, in an interview with the Guardian, described the recent general election as a “game changer”, suggesting that Theresa May’s loss of her parliamentary majority is now allowing for “more diverse opinions about Brexit, more views from the business community.”

It’s a view that is gaining ground as Government ministers continue to send out mixed and often contradictory messages, with May’s weakened leadership seemingly unable to unite the party behind a coherent strategy.

“We have been encouraged by some recent comments made by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, but just when you think there is a plan in place another minster comes in and contradicts it,” said Beale. “It is simply not good enough for business needing to plan for their future and that of their employees.”

The WSTA has been pushing for the negotiation of a deal that would allow the UK to agree a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU throughout a transition period, while then allowing time both for progress to be made on future EU and other bilateral FTAs, and businesses to prepare for a future outside of the EU.

The WSTA represents an industry worth around £50 billion to the UK and supports over half a million jobs in the UK.