The wine industry has been quick to respond to the challenges thrown down by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Here we pull together some of the thoughts of the sector’s key players operating across different channels and representing the interests of their staff, their suppliers and customers.
Rolling Brexit upates: As the dust starts to settle on the Brexit vote, The Buyer assesses what steps different on-trade operators, suppliers and producers think the trade collectively needs to take to ensure it covers the risks, but makes the most of any opportunities that now arise.
Whilst we have all had something like a year to prepare ourselves for a possible Leave vote in the European Union Referendum it is not surprising the trade was caught as much on the hop as the politicians, the media and even those closest to the rival campaigning teams.
But with the pound plummeting to levels not seen since the 1980s there is no time for navel gazing, but a collective need for the trade to understand the issues ahead of ourselves and then work out what steps are needed to be taken when and how to ensure the UK’s non-EU status does not become a shadow over what the trade is able to do.
Here The Buyer sets out the reactions from different operators and leaders across the on-trade.
Starting with an updated response from Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, who issued a further statement on June 29.
“Brexit heralds a time of uncertainty. Like others, our industry finds itself in uncharted waters.
“While the consequences of the Referendum are seismic, it is important to remind businesses that there are no immediate changes as a result of the Referendum result. The UK remains in the EU and the Single Market until such time as negotiations have completed – which is likely to take two years or more.
“Unsurprisingly there is already conjecture and comment about what happens next and the impact on the wine and spirit industry. There will be few answers to the many questions for some time, but I am very confident that the WSTA is well placed to advise its members, including providing practical advice to carry on running their businesses without disruption in the immediate term and on preparations for the future.
“The WSTA will be consulting members on a pro-active agenda to ensure that the interests of the wine and spirits industry are protected.
We are already talking to government about future access to the Single Market and promoting international trade and new opportunities.
“The WSTA is well placed to work with others to shape the future. We will carefully consult members to identify what they need, their priorities and how to take advantage of opportunities.
“It is crucial that Britain’s wine and spirit businesses and consumers get the best out of Brexit.”
Robin Copestick, managing director, Copestick Murray
David Gleave MW, managing director, Liberty Wines
“At Liberty Wines it is business as usual. The most immediate consequence of the referendum result is the fall in sterling. We have forward cover to see us through the next few months. We’ll use that period to talk with our suppliers and monitor the situation.
“There is likely to be a protracted period of uncertainty which could lead to a hit on spending and investment in the market. However, we went through a similar period following the financial crisis in 2008, and we thrived during that time, so are confident we would do so again.
“Producers will want to continue to be present in the UK. It will remain a major market, so as long as producers can sell profitably, then they will continue to support this market. While the situation looks difficult at the moment, sterling was much weaker against the major currencies in 2009 and 2010, and producers continued to sell to the UK then.
“We have received numerous emails of support from our producers this morning, which I think underlines their commitment to the UK market.”
Andrew Bewes, managing director of Hallgarten Druitt
“Until the dust settles and we start to get a feel for what the next 24-30 months will bring, it is very much business as usual here at Hallgarten; as ever we are adopting a ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach and are continuing to concentrate on delivering the best possible wines and service to our customers nationwide.
“The immediate issue we and our industry face over the next few weeks is volatile exchange rates; here we must rely upon the UK government and Bank of England to take sufficient measures to reassure the international markets that we have things under control. In the short to medium term, the critical GBP/€ FX rate will very much depend upon the political fall-out across the rest of the EU.
“Whilst FX-related price rises are perhaps more likely than not in the short term, we have covered our immediate currency needs and will therefore not be taking any decisions on pricing until the currency markets calm down and we have discussed the situation with our suppliers. With a minimum of 24 months run-in to our exit from the EU we believe that Hallgarten, and the customers we serve, will have sufficient time to plan for the inevitable changes that Brexit will bring about.
“Hallgarten and the wine industry as a whole is as experienced as any in dealing with the consequences of fluctuating currencies, volatile markets and the effects of changing circumstances, whether recession or the all-too-regular rises in duty; we will prevail!
“Whilst Brexit may not have been the favoured outcome for most of our industry, we must respect the views of the British people (17m of them at least!) and work to ensure that we, and more importantly the customers we supply, prosper no matter what the future brings.”
Tim Martin, founder of Wetherspoons pub chain and high profile Leave campaigner (edited extract)
Charles Simpson, Domaine Ste Rose, Languedoc and Simpsons Estates near Canterbury.
“Whilst the long term impact of UK leaving the EU is impossible to predict, given so many variables are yet to be decided, the short-term tangible impact has been immediate. The single biggest issue being exchange rate volatility, which has been with us since the beginning of the year.
“Cambridge is ‘down with the kids’ by returning the same support for Remain as Under 25s nationally , at 74% support. The University and city is truly international and can’t really operate outside the EU without damaging its long term success. But I believe that is true for the nation and our industry. Most of us will be negatively affected, economically, politically, bureaucratically, culturally and commercially by the referendum vote.
The true extent of the damage will unwind over a long period of time but I simply cannot see European wine producers being as supportive of UK companies as they were before. I’ve got a lot of planning to do in light of England’s decision.”
Patrick McGrath, managing director, Hatch Mansfield
“My message is simple keep calm and carry on!! We need to wait for the markets to calm down and not to over react.”