The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) is calling for Brexit Ministers to let industry lead negotiations to ensure the best possible free trade agreements with the EU.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale met with the secretary of state for Defra, Andrea Leadsom MP, this week to present the WSTA’s Brexit Policy Paper, which shows the wine and spirit industry is united, has clear objectives and is uniquely placed to advise government.

The paper included a call for British gin to be given protected status in recognition of its quality and global appeal. Gin is the second largest traded UK spirit after whisky, with three out of every four bottles of gin imported round the world coming from the UK.

The meeting was also used to stress the importance of the UK wine industry to the British economy, worth £2.8bn in imported goods and £440m in exports.

The UK is the largest per capita importer of wine in the world, with France being the UK’s largest wine trading partner by value, worth £1bn in trade in 2015.

The UK also imports more Champagne than any other country, making is a crucial trading partner for France.

Because the UK is the world’s leading wine importer and home to the biggest European spirits exporters the WSTA noted it is effectively on both sides of the negotiating table.

The WSTA is calling for government to begin by focusing on sector specific industry trade, in its Brexit policy paper, entitled: ‘The road ahead for the wine and spirit industry’.

In the paper it also notes that the wine and spirit sectors combined are worth more than £45bn and support nearly 600,000 jobs directly and indirectly in the UK.

Some of the asks from the paper suggest that the UK should immediately join the World Wine Trade Group, and it should also keep EU definitions for most spirit drinks and most of the current production rules for wine.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: “For a genuinely global industry like wine and spirits, Brexit will bring both challenges and opportunities.

“We understand why government want to keep their Brexit cards close to their chest, but as an industry we hold some very valuable cards and can help Ministers to come up trumps on trade. So we are asking we are asking government to let industry lead.

“A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to ensure that industry is on the front foot to help government to prepare the best possible case for uninterrupted trade with the EU, and the best possible platform for bilateral trade deals with priority countries.

“We have the expertise within the WSTA and our membership to pave the way for a smooth Brexit for our world-leading industry. The size and the contribution made by the wine and spirit industry to the UK economy should not be ignored; and its influence with key trading partners should not be underestimated.”