The Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the ministerial department with responsibility for overseeing laws related to wine. The Food Standards Agency is the competent authority responsible for enforcing the wine regulations at the import, bottling, UK production and wholesale distribution stages within the UK. Defra, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and local authorities are also enforcement agencies with the latter being responsible for all enforcement in the retail sector.
Australia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) launched negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) on 17 June 2020.
Update on Brexit for Australian wine exporters
The United Kingdom formally withdrew from the European Union on 31 January 2020. The transition period ended on 1 January 2021 and a customs border is now imposed between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU), including Northern Ireland.
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed that there will be a period of adjustment for all food and drink products, including wine and spirits, from the end of the Brexit transition period to 30 September 2022.
Further details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/importing-and-exporting-wine#moving-wine-from-gb-to-ni
To summarise, the changes mean that:
- Wine, spirits and other alcoholic drinks products can continue to be placed on the UK market without changes until 30 September 2022 – but from 1 October 2022 goods sold in the UK must include a UK importer, bottler or vendor address.
- This only applies to the GB market, and does not apply to Northern Ireland. Goods sold in Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules for labelling (meaning the label requires either an EU or NI address).
- There is no grace period for the EU market. Products placed on the EU market will need an EU address on the label from 1 January 2021.
- As there is a risk in including two addresses on a label for wine on the EU market, the UK Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) recommends using only one EU bottler or importer address on wine labels destined for both the UK and the EU markets until the end of the transitional arrangements on 30 September 2022.
Whilst the European Commission has unofficially indicated that after the Brexit transition period it will be acceptable to list both a UK importer and an EU importer on labels, provided it is clear which is which and hence not misleading to the consumer, we have not received confirmation on this point. The determination of whether the presentation of importer information is misleading to the consumer is a matter that will be determined by each of the relevant Member State authorities and some may take a more dogmatic approach in their application of the rules.
Application of EU wine regulations in the UK
Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, in accordance with the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and the Agricultural Products, Food and Drink (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, EU wine regulations as applied to the UK on 31 December 2020 continue to apply in the UK (‘retained’ EU wine regulations).
Accordingly, wine sold in the UK must comply with retained EU wine regulations.
The retained EU wine regulations dictate:
- the oenological practices that may be used in the production of imported wine prior to it being imported to the UK
- the oenological practices that may be used in the production of imported wine within the UK
- the labelling requirements for wine in the UK
- rules pertaining to the provision of VI-1 documents for wine imported to the UK.
UK Government plans to abolish VI-1 documents
In July 2021, the UK government announced plans to abolish the requirement for VI-1 documents to be provided upon import.
These changes are not immediate as UK law will need to be amended before the new arrangements can be adopted. Wine Australia understands that the new arrangements are likely to be in place from 1 October 2021 and will keep you informed as further information about timing is available.
Please note: VI-1 documents will continue to be required for imports to the EU, including in relation to products exported from Australia to the UK, and subsequently re-exported to the EU. In these circumstances, the existing process will remain, being that Wine Australia will provide a VI-1 document to the exporter, and a second VI-1 will need to be obtained from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the UK and provided to the EU customs authority.
A reminder that the Wine Australia Licensing and Approval System (WALAS) can generate security encrypted VI-1 documents in PDF format for exports to the UK and the EU. While most customs authorities in the UK and the EU continue to insist on paper copies of these certificates, the paper copies can be printed by any party, including by exporters (using the encrypted PDFs downloaded direct from WALAS), or by forwarding the encrypted PDF to your UK/EU agent or importer by email, allowing them to print the document in market. More information about the VI-1 process is available here.
Import procedures for the United Kingdom Market
Duties and taxes for the United Kingdom market
Labelling requirements for the United Kingdom market
Wine standards for the United Kingdom market