This one is very clear, if we don’t stop a specific piece of (completely unnecessary and avoidable) red tape coming in on January 1st 2021, red wine and all its other delightful forms will suffer a serious price spike and the range available to us will significantly drop.

In short, there’s a form, VI-1, which does not currently apply to wine coming in from the EU which, if we do nothing, will, cause catastrophic impact on our wine trade. It will lead to increased prices and reduced choice for all.

Currently wine coming in from Europe is not subject to VI-1 checks and lab tests – 55% of wine consumed in the UK is imported from the EU. Certification rules will all change on January 1st 2021, with or without a deal, when all wine imported from Europe will be subject to VI-1s.

The extra red tape is anticipated to generate over 600,000 paper forms – at least a threefold increase for wine inspectors – and cost the UK wine trade an extra £70 million, a year.

In a written response, the Government stated that the introduction of VI-1 forms would be “nil or negligible”: well, only if you think that £70 million and 600,000 paper forms is nothing.

We have an opportunity here to bolster the UK’s position as the world’s wine hub. The VI-1 is not fit for purpose for the UK outside of the EU, and by initially removing the requirement for a limited period after the transition period, the UK can lead the way by creating a new, simplified, electronic wine passport which facilitates trade from all over the world and opens up new opportunities for this Great British industry. An industry currently worth an estimated £19 billion, supporting over 130,000 jobs.

And the great news is that we already have the technological capability to enable this. A collaborative team from UK and Australian governments (including the Food Standards Agency and HMRC), industry and academia have worked on a project utilising distributed ledger and internet of things technologies to be able to track – in real time – every aspect of a wine shipment. This ground breaking proof of concept has wide applicability – well beyond wine – as a platform that could reduce friction in international trade.

This is also personally extremely pleasing as it is a clear illustration of a successful project emanating from my 2017 report into Distributed Ledger Technologies for Public Good. Building on the excellent Walport Report (Beyond Blockchain) in which then Government Chief Scientist Sir Mark Walport explored the potential use cases and value of this technology I emphasised the need for a focus on the public good and the importance of leadership, collaboration and innovation. This collaborative project, with all project participants coming together at a round-table I convened to discuss my report and going on to work pro bono have created a proof of concept digital trade platform with great potential to serve the public good.

Back to the glass in hand, wine is currently the UK’s sixth biggest food and drink export, worth around £650 million, and by making trade easier and removing unnecessary prescriptive EU rules, we can boost the UK’s place as a world-leader in wine and ensure consumers can continue to enjoy a wide and exciting range of wine from all over the world.

It is for this reason that I put down the following amendment to the Agriculture Bill last week:

Amendment 253 Page 32, line 36, at end insert “( ) the administration of maintaining marketing standards of imported wine products, including the digitisation of VI-1 forms.

The amendment gives the Government the option to enable digitisation of the form or, better still, undertake a wine passport approach as set out earlier.

I hope that the amendment demonstrates the growing support and recognition of the industry’s efforts to highlight the damage the introduction of VI-1 forms would cause for the wine industry if they were to be introduced on 1 January 2021. I’m extremely grateful for the support of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association for their complete support for the amendment.

Through this amendment we can boost our wine industry, boost our technology business’ and demonstrate that we can operate as a modern, tech enabled state. This would be a small but significant example of the UK as innovative state. The kind championed in Michael Gove’s recent Ditchley Lecture.

If you love wine or even just like it a bit but want to see British innovation and creativity succeed, I hope I will have your support for this, simple, change to be made by Government. The forms don’t’ need to come in, they will not benefit consumers or producers, let’s stop it now and give a full bodied V sign to the VI-1 unnecessary paper.

Question to the Minister regarding VI-1 forms in the Lords Debate on the Agriculture Bill, 23 July 2020

Drunk on Paperwork, Politico, Morning Trade UK, 28 July 2020

Lords advocate ditching VI-1s in favour of digital wine passport, Harpers Wine and Spirit Trade Review, 27 July 2020

House of Lords Supports Calls to Scrap VI-1 Wine Forms, The Drinks Business, 28 July 2020

Londra, la Camera dei Lord contro la nuova “burocrazia” sull’import di vino, Federvini, 28 July 2020

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