Attempting to ignore all other pivotal issues around Brexit, let us have a look at how we expect Brexit to affect our trade.
Declarations first – I voted remain, if I could have voted passionately by pressing harder on the ballot paper or shouting it out in the polling station I would have done. The majority of my close family are from Southern Ireland, (don’t get me started on the obvious healing benefits of the EU in uniting North and South in EU membership), I was born in 1973 the year we joined the EU, I’ve travelled Europe extensively, I love the food and I especially love the wine, membership is all I have ever known and I love it – if I could marry Europe I probably would.
I am not totally naïve, I understand that the strangle hold of Brussels bureaucracy, the ridiculous expenditure, difficult economics and the impossibility of ‘one rule for all’, across such vastly different countries and cultures, caused serious issues. However, I still believe if we could have calmly weighed up the pros and cons with facts and economics lessons, instead of falsehoods, driven by those with their own political advancement objectives, we would have come out on the side of remain- maybe even with a caveat of ‘let’s look at it again in five years’.
Obviously it doesn’t matter what I think or how I voted, to use that dreadful phrase coined by brexiteers to admonish themselves of all responsibility, ‘we are where we are’. So where is it that we are? Well for me that place or position is the owner of a wine business post Brexit, with a huge outstanding investment in said business, which sells from a shop, on line and serves for consumption in a quaint little shed in the Ribble Valley.
To be competitive in a tourism area, where quality eating and drinking establishments are more common than new housing estates in the north of England, our margins are low, with only 30-35% mark up on the wine on the shelves. Likewise on the bar, we can’t apply anything like towny restaurant mark ups and neither would we want to. We are based in a small community, where we know and like our customers, and we need them to be able to afford to come back on a regular basis.
The point is we simply cannot afford any additional increase in price on the wine we stock. The uncertainty of yet-to-be negotiated trade deals, literally means we do not know how much longer we will be around. Like a great many of my colleagues in the industry I want, and more importantly need, to see the future and I want to see it now.
Think me weird if you will, but I have always had this obsession with facts and truths. At a time like this when there are none, I search frantically and read obsessively. I have found some detailed analysis from Australian academics, Kym Anderson and Glyn Wittwer, produced for the UK Trade Observatory, which, upon reading, made me wish to be one of those people who neither know nor care about facts and truths; neither do they have a plan for the future – you know the sort, I think they are called brexiteers?
Anderson and Witt, without political bias, modelled three different trade scenarios and concluded,
‘In the main scenario considered, for consumers in the UK the price of wine in 2025 is 22% higher in local currency terms than it would be without Brexit, the volume of UK wine consumption is 28% lower, and the value of UK imports is 27% lower because of Brexit.’
For those of you thinking – ‘well just sell wine from outside of Europe’, come and have a glass with me; I’ll get the white board out in the Wine School and explain just how preposterous that thought is.
Oh well, (and I’m clutching for the silver lining here) I am well educated in which wine to choose to drown my sorrows.
By Nuala Wheeldon