There are fears a “no-deal” will cause huge disruptions to the key Christmas period in the on and off-premise, following leaked Brexit documents being published in the Sunday Times.
UK business leaders are demanding an independent inquiry into the “Operation Yellowhammer” revelations, which have disclosed that petrol and diesel shortages could disrupt the internal supply chain, in addition to severe border control delays.
The dossier called “Operation Yellowhammer,” which has been prepared by the UK cabinet office, also warned that the supply of fresh food could be reduced. Critical elements of the supply chain, including ingredients, chemicals and packaging, may also be affected, the newspaper added.
Britain is now 73 days from October 31, the deadline set by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to leave the European Union with or without a withdrawal agreement.
The deadline couldn’t come at a worse time for the wine trade, on the eve of Black Friday and the festive season.
The EU accounts for 55% of the UK’s wine imports and a survey by the
Wine & Spirit Trade Association has found a ‘no deal’ UK departure from the EU was the wine trade’s ‘worst case scenario’.
Decanter notes that the latest news “will likely add to existing disquiet within the wine trade”.
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “I think we can be prepared, we should be prepared, but I don’t think that takes away from the fact that what Yellowhammer shows — and I think what businesses have been saying for three years — is that the cost will be really significant for our economy and for jobs and that a deal is the number-one priority.”
According to the leaked Brexit documents, the no-deal disruption would lead to protests that could “require significant amounts of police resources”.
The report suggested a hard Irish border would become inevitable, and there would be shortages of medicine. Gibraltar could face delays of up to four hours at the border with Spanish delays stretching for “at least a few months”.
Australian concerns intensify
Australian exporters are also contemplating the prospect of no deal with alarm.
Australian Grape and Wine CEO Tony Battaglene (above) told news.com.au earlier this month that a hard Brexit is now viewed as “most likely”.
While the industry has signed a deal with the UK government to keep existing labelling in place, “re-exporting” Australian wine from the UK to the EU will “clearly become more difficult” with some producers looking at bypassing the UK altogether.
“I think willingness of EU to play nicely will be limited in [the event of a no deal] so that causes concern,” he said.
Last month, Mitchell Taylor, the managing director of Taylor’s Wines, told the Australian Financial Review his company had lifted shipments by about 10% several months ago at the request of large retail customers, but industry-wide demand was slowing across the UK in a soft consumer market.
Treasury Wine Estates said it had been involved in detailing planning for many months for the different outcomes that might emerge from Brexit.
“We have adequately planned for various potential scenarios, and as a global wine company with a number of strong regions around the world, are well positioned to manage the impact of any change,” a spokeswoman said.