The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has taken to YouTube to further condemn the government’s new alcohol duty system. The fresh rebuttal follows an address in Westminster Hall earlier this month from exchequer secretary to the Treasury Gareth Davies, who claimed the new system would be “fair to all producers” while preventing “harmful high strength products being sold too cheaply”. 

On March 5, Davies said that while duty changes present a “shake-up”, he is “confident that the bureaucratic burden under the new system is manageable”. Davies also suggested that the reforms could “simplify our tax duty system”. 

The MP for Grantham and Stamford said during the session that to make the current temporary wine easement permanent “would go against alcohol reform”. 

In a rebuttal against Davies’ claims, WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said that the government cannot be confident that the system is manageable when “the whole of the wine sector is telling them it isn’t”.

“We have a letter signed by more than 120 businesses telling the government that it is not better for them, but the government is refusing to listen,” he said. 

Beale highlighted that the new system cannot be fair to all producers when “only wine can’t dictate its abv, so it’s not fair on wine producers at all”.

He also mentioned the added complexity for drinks retailers: “One of the WSTA’s major wine retailing members is telling us that the new system is impossible to implement, and we’re hearing the same from across the WSTA…from supermarkets to importers, wine warehouse operators to off-licences,” he continued. 

“Not a single member has said that it will be easy to introduce the new system.” 

While Davies applauded the “Brexit freedom” that has made the new duty system possible to implement, Beale argued that it will “impose far more red tape on businesses than the previous EU regime”.

Quoting a WSTA member, Beale concluded: “The end of the easement will have sealed the fate of many businesses, which will have gone under thanks to this government’s choice to press on with a complex, costly and bureaucratic new alcohol duty regime, and they’ve done it in the face of business advice, warnings and outright opposition.” 

To read more about why keeping the wine duty easement is important, check out the Drinks Retailing and WSTA Crush the Red Tape campaign.