Scrapping EU rules could boost UK wine industry by £180m, says Coffey

Scrapping retained European Union laws will “put a rocket under” the UK’s domestic wine industry and potentially boost vineyards by £180 million, according to the Environment Secretary.

A host of Brussels regulations that were retained after Brexit will be binned as part of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, including some that impact Britain’s blossoming wine sector.

Therese Coffey said the changes being introduced through the legislation would give vineyards the “freedom they need to thrive”.

The comments follow a Conservative Party row after the Government watered down plans to rid the British statute books of leftover EU rules.

Brexit-backing Tory MPs were angered after ministers confirmed 600 retained EU laws would be revoked rather than the 4,000 pledged.

The Government had originally promised a “sunset” clause on all laws carried over from the trade bloc by the end of 2023 under the Retained EU Law Bill.

Former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg slammed the revised scrappage plan as “pathetically under-ambitious”.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said ditching the bloc’s regulations relating to winemakers would give businesses the freedom to pick from a wider range of vines, including more disease resistant varieties.

Restrictions which currently prevent the wine industry from producing new blends will also be removed, while bottlers will be able to turn imported wine into sparkling wine.

Packaging requirements – such as the stipulation that certain sparkling wines must have foil caps and mushroom stoppers — will be lifted when the legislation is passed.

Department officials said such bottle tops can prove expensive and cumbersome, with the change potentially meaning more choice for consumers as producers cut costs.

Cabinet minister Ms Coffey said: “The UK has over 800 thriving vineyards at home and hundreds of millions of pounds worth of wine trade going through UK ports every year.

“But for too long our producers have been held back by cumbersome inherited EU regulations. We will give them the freedom they need to thrive.

English wine harvest
Getting rid of retained EU laws will provide UK winemakers with more freedoms, the Environment Secretary said (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“These reforms will put a rocket under our winemakers’ businesses – growing the economy, creating jobs and supporting a vital part of our food and drink sector.”

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said: “Reforming and scrapping burdensome regulation will help grow the economy and provide businesses with much-needed freedoms to innovate, create and thrive.”

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “We welcome the range of measures proposed today, many of which we have proposed publicly.

“By introducing greater flexibility, wine producers and importers won’t be forced to do anything differently but will be able to innovate.”

A consultation, expected to begin taking opinions shortly, will seek views on the nature, scope and timings of all the proposed changes from a variety of stakeholders in the industry, Defra said.

The UK wine industry has been booming in recent years.

Winemaker Chapel Down, a Kent-based firm,  reported in March that sales surged by more than 50% over 2022, selling a record 790,000 bottles from  an “outstanding” harvest that allowed it to produce more than two million bottles of wine.