March 14th, 2017
On an already busy day in the House of Commons today, Sussex MP Nusrat Ghani, introduced a new law seeking to ensure that British embassies and consulates overseas purchase and serve English and Welsh wines and sparkling wines at overseas functions and events.
Speaking for her constituency of Wealdon, which includes a number of high profile producers including Bluebell Vineyard, Ms Ghani posed a challenge to British embassies to sell Britain through its produce, saying in her speech: “In a post-Brexit world, we must do all we can to get behind industries that show the sort of potential of our wine industry. And what better way to do that than to give the world a taste by serving UK produced wine and sparkling wine in our 268 embassies, High Commissions and Consulates around the world?”
Referring to the successful passage of the Article 50 Bill through Parliament yesterday, she cited this Bill as one of the first “Brexit bills”, saying: “As we leave the EU, we must grasp every opportunity to find new markets for our products around the world and to be imaginative in supporting and promoting them.”
The move was warmly welcomed by the UK wine industry, with the UK Vineyard Association’s CEO, Barry Lewis commenting: “We are delighted that this subject is being debated in Parliament. English and Welsh wines seldom feature on the diplomatic service wine list and this would send out a very positive message that these embassies are supporting British businesses by purchasing British products to serve.”
Along with UK wine trade association WSTA, the UK wine industry has been petitioning Government to put English wines in more focus. Last year’s first English Wine Round Table with DEFRA, brokered by WSTA, raised a number of key issues which included urging the diplomatic service to buy and serve English and Welsh wines.
Additionally, Neil Parish MP (Conservative MP for Tiverton & Honiton), the industry’s wine champion, has over the last 8 months been actively campaigning to fellow MPs as well as to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office direct to raise this issue.
Chief Executive of the WSTA, Miles Beale, said: “We are also eager to see Parliament serve and support the great British drinks sector. It is only right that we should encourage representatives from both the UK Government and Parliament to showcase the very best of British around the world.”
Thanks to focussed efforts by WSTA and All Party Parliamentary Wine Group, more and more MPs are being urged to back UK wines in parliament and elsewhere. Waitrose also hosted a tasting for MPs last year to raise the profile of their support for the growing industry.
Commenting after the Bill was approved for introduction by the House of Commons without opposition, Ms Ghani said: “Over the next two years, British diplomats will be carrying out the most important negotiations ever embarked on, as we leave the EU – what better way to help oil the wheels of those negotiations in Berlin, Rome and Madrid than with a little English sparkle?”
The full transcript of the speech will be up available shortly from https://hansard.digiminster.com/ and can be found by searching “Ghani”
Photo above: Nusrat Ghani MP with Joyce Tay of Bluebell Vineyards