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THE CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, has today announced a freeze on excise duty for all but the cheapest, lowest quality drinks.
Nik Darlington, founder of importer Red Squirrel Wine, responded to the news by saying it's a "heroic boost for an industry that's already been kicked in more sensitive areas than we'd care to mention", while welcoming other policy announcements that could be a big help to the trade, finishing by saying ”if the Chancellor does want to swap his water for something stronger next year, I’d be more than happy to answer the Government’s call and do my duty!”
"The Chancellor opened his speech with a quip about swapping his water for something more alcoholic, but for once the joke isn’t on the UK drinks trade.
"Increasing alcohol duty for the second time in the space of a year would have been a kick in the teeth for an industry that's already been kicked in more sensitive areas than we'd care to mention.
"A hammered exchange rate, extortionate business rates rises and increasingly fragile consumer sentiment are putting enough of a squeeze on importers, distributors, restaurants, bars and independent merchants.
"We are well aware how important the drinks trade is to the UK in terms of jobs, general economic activity and, rightfully so, tax receipts. But the point at which ever-increasing duty becomes counter-productive has long passed. A freeze is a heroic boost at this point in time, but let’s never relent from making the case that duty is already too high.
“The important subtext is the Chancellor linking duty rises to health concerns, and explicitly now separating those drinks that are identified with causing the greatest harm. We all have a duty in this trade to be responsible about the effects of alcohol, and I would be the first to admit there’s more we could do, but this recognition is welcome.
"I also welcome the allocation of another £3 billion to prepare for leaving the EU, while strongly calling for funds such as these also to be considered for easing the inflationary pressures on businesses from fiscal tightening.
“Bringing forward the change in indexing of business rate rises from RPI to CPI by two years should be invaluable to colleagues especially with this inflationary backdrop, as shall extending the discount for pubs for another year.
“We should also welcome the help companies are getting on taxes for diesel vehicles, given how important our logistics networks are to getting great wine into and around the UK. We’ve all seen how currency flux and rising fuel costs have ramped up freight charges, which distributors like us have continued to absorb in recent months.
“Ultimately we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that however much some people want to talk down the economy, and however needlessly damaging the Brexit process is, Britain remains a brilliant place to do business and our wine trade is the greatest in the world.
“Finally, if the Chancellor does want to swap his water for something stronger next year, I’d be more than happy to answer the Government’s call and do my duty!”