My family has strong European connections. My mother was an Austrian refugee to the UK before World War 2, my father loved Austria and Germany and of course, I have visited Italy and France regularly and Germany, Austria, Spain and Portugal occasionally in the last 15 years. So like many of the 48% who voted to remain in the EU, I was appalled at the outcome of the 2016 Brexit vote. But I didn’t realise I was going to be directly disadvantaged by additional Brexit bureaucracy, if in a relatively minor way.
As reported in Diary 13, I have kept my research on Piemonte going during the challenges of 2020 through the willingness of producers to send me wine samples and to be interviewed on Zoom. It has been surprisingly effective. The consortia of Roero, Alta Langa and Barbera d’Asti e vini del Monferrato have been really helpful in introducing me to the producers I nominate. So far, so good. At the end of 2020, the UK finally lost – through its own choice – the benefits of being in a single market and now wines coming into the UK are subject to various taxes. At the moment, parcels are being held up in Italy as presumably, nobody knows exactly what they are supposed to be doing. In some cases, I have had to pay to get them released. I get a message like this:
Hello, Your FedEx Shipment Airway Bill # 783073983734 has been imported from outside the EU, it is subject to an import charge of 19.43 GBP. Please click https://dutyandtax.fedex.com/gb/en/mdItFDx2DdTt8x to pay or visit http://fedex.com/gb/contact/ for more information. Reply STOP to opt out.
Whoever composed the message doesn’t perhaps understand that Italy is in the EU (??) or rather just got in a muddle. The annoying thing about all this, which was for just two bottles of wine, was that most of the charge, £12, was for FedEx to pay the taxes on my account. When the parcel arrived, it contained the new form the importer has to fill in. It had been correctly declared as ‘Samples’ and ‘Not for sale or resale’, so it may be that it should have been exempt anyway. Who knows?
In the scale of the world’s woes, this is just annoying. Additional Brexit bureaucracy has implications for wine critics who receive wines for review on a daily basis are much more serious. One well-known critic told me that it may be cheaper for him to fly to Spain (when he is allowed to), hire a space and taste all the wine there, rather than have them delivered to the UK. My daughter’s fashion business has had to drop more than half of her main European suppliers because of the new taxes and charges. All in all, this is not a good introduction to the brave new world that we were promised by the Brexiteers.