Ministers must “get a grip” and put an end to the bitter Cabinet infighting over Brexit to ensure businesses get a good deal when Britain leaves the European Union, a trade body has warned.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said it has “deep-seated” concerns about the Government’s “chaotic approach” to Brexit and claimed a “clear plan” was paramount or trade would suffer.
Its comments come amid a growing rift among the Conservatives, set off by disagreements and contradictory statements about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The most important issue for UK wine businesses is for the UK to remain central to world wine trading post-Brexit, the WSTA said.
Britain is by far the largest exporter of spirits in the world and the industry can only invest and grow if trade flows are secure, it added.
Video: Theresa May’s Cabinet in ‘shambles’ over Brexit
Miles Beale, CEO of the WSTA, which represents an industry worth £50bn to the UK and supports more than half a million jobs, said a transitional period was “key to avoid disruption to historic trade flows”.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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.
“It is simply not good enough for business needing to plan for their future and that of their employees.”
In June, the group said that around 99% of the 1.8 billion bottles of wine consumed in the UK were imported, meaning that any additional potential tariffs – should the UK leave the EU without a trade deal – would have a “punishing” effect.
There are also fears of an influx of sub-standard whisky is the UK strikes a trade deal with the US after Brexit.
The Scotch whisky industry is worth £4bn to Scotland and it is protected from sub-standard products by an EU definition of whisky – but this will change after Brexit.