The implementation of a “hard Brexit” could result in a major upsurge in the amount of bootlegged booze sold across the UK.
In scenes reminiscent of those seen in the US back in the 1930s, when prohibition was implemented to curb unruly behaviour, drinkers could soon be forced “underground” in a bid to get their usual supply of beer, spirits and wines.
Or at least that’s what the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WTSA) has warned, amid fears that the upcoming Brexit talks could result in “delays and gridlocks” at ports across the country.
This chaos could give rise to a black market of alcohol smugglers who either bring booze across the borders by illicit means or may even opt to brew their own tipples for under-the-counter sale.
Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 this week with negotiations over the UK’s exit from the European Union to follow.
WTSA chief executive Miles Beale warned:
“There must be clear and workable mechanisms in place to allow cross-border trade of wine and spirits from the moment we leave the EU.
“Anything else will result in huge delays at the ports leading to backlogs and gridlock.”
For WSTA Customs expert David Richardson only one outcome was likely in the event of any such delays:
“If we find ourselves in the nightmare scenario of UK ports shutting down as lorries are held in stacking chaos then goods will not be getting to market. This will inevitably lead to bootlegging.
“The UK is the most important country in the global wine and spirit trade and criminals will find alternative methods of getting alcohol in.
“It’s big business for Britain and it’s vital government maintains the free flow of trade between the UK and Europe and reassures industry with an early solution.”
At present, UK wine trade alone is worth around £17 billion in economic activity, with around 1.8 billion bottles imported into the country every year.
Despite this warning, the potential for an increase in prices could also prompt more underground bootlegging with HM Revenue & Customs warning that alcohol prices could go up by as much as 24 per cent in the wake of leaving the EU.
It might be time to stock up now.
Beer Prices Set To Skyrocket To As Much As £4.50 A Pint