Importing wine post Brexit

Port of Calais

19 January 2021 A little elucidation on personal allowances added at the very end.

17 January 2021 At the bottom of this article Tim Hall of Scala Wine adds some detail about how private individuals in the UK may now import wine for personal consumption and how things have changed.

16 January 2021 Successful Welsh wine merchant Daniel Lambert posted a 26-tweet tale of extreme woe in trying to navigate the post Brexit wine-importing system. He says the minute his children have completed their education next year, he is using his second nationality to leave Britain for good. See @DanielLambert29

15 January 2021 Now that the UK has left the EU, how much will it cost us Brits to bring in wine from abroad?

Asked by someone on Twitter about how much she would have to pay to bring in various quantities of champagne sent from France to her, I enquired of the man who knows the detail of these things at the Wine and Spirit Trade Association in the UK and here is his reply:



Still wine

Customs duty

Nil on EU originating goods

UKGT at £26/hl on an import from anywhere else (19.5p per bottle), even if the champagne was made in the EU originally

Nil on EU originating goods

UKGT at £10 or £12/hl, depending on abv (7.5p or 9p per bottle), on an import from anywhere else, even if the wine was made in the EU originally

Import VAT

At 20% on the value of the goods + transport costs to port of export. Potentially reclaimable if imported by a VAT-registered person for use in their business

UK excise duty

£381.15/hl, or £2.86 per 75-cl bottle

Depending on abv, but between 5.5% and 15% abv, it’s £297.57/hl, or £2.23 per 75-cl bottle

Transport costs

Assuming you use a parcel service – charges are variable and will include an admin fee for collecting duty and VAT (and I think you won’t be able to reclaim it if it’s paid by the parcel service)

He added:

'Frankly, for an individual it’s potentially an expensive and bureaucratic hobby and, in my view, only worth it for high-value and/or otherwise unobtainable product. Even then, it may be less hassle to travel to the EU (when we can) and bring some back using the (reduced) personal allowance.'

Here's official government guidance on importing alcohol into the UK from 1 January 2021. I went back to my informant to observe that it looked to me more or less the same as things were pre Brexit. But he replied:

'Not really. The tax liability is more or less the same, but the cost of dealing has increased:
  • Distance selling is more difficult because EU sellers and marketplaces now have to register for UK VAT
  • The admin costs for them and for parcel companies have gone up because of the need to make customs declarations and engage with different systems
  • Technically the VAT you paid on goods from the EU wouldn’t have been import VAT but acquisition VAT, so it would be accounted for and paid differently on VAT returns, so extra complexity there needs to be paid for too
  • The need for customs intermediaries has expanded considerably. For instance, you need a real physical agent at French ports.'

Crikey. That last bit is a bit of deal breaker.

Nick Anthony, who I suspect is a UK wine importer, confirmed: 'Yup. Transport from France quoted earlier this week as up by 39%.'

Jason Millar of Theatre of Wine in London confirmed on Twitter that a 'small importer [is] looking at flat-rate paperwork charges of c €60 at both import and export side regardless of the number of bottles shipped, so it's prohibitive for small purchases. Even on a 600-bottle pallet, [Brexit] adds £120 of pure red tape in costs, compounded by new, higher transport fees.'

Best of luck navigating your way round all this.

Tim Hall adds Crudely, for me, there are three ways for a consumer to buy wine from another country and get it back to the UK (bar the complexity of importing wine having bid remotely in auctions held abroad)

a)  By 'mail' order Usually done online, by phone or by email. The new and biggest change, it seems to me, is that from 1 January, EU-to-UK deliveries must pay UK VAT and excise duty.These will be levied at the UK port or airport and the goods will not be delivered until they are paid. This is bound to extend delivery times and there is no personal duty-free allowance for such imports.
b)  Duty free These purchases must be made in person in a duty-free outlet. This generally means the purchases are free of VAT and alcohol duty. But on arrival in the UK, the goods will be subject to the individual's personal allowance - see c) below.
c) Bought in the EU in person In this case you have to go there (when we are allowed to travel) and bring it back in person. Here is the other considerable change post Brexit: a big reduction in the personal duty-free allowance and the end of the so-called
booze cruise. It is now a total of:
  • 42 litres of beer and
  • 18 litres (24 standard 75 cl bottles) of still wine and
  • 4 litres of spirits OR 9 litres (12 bottles) of sparkling wine, fortified wine or any alcoholic beverage less than 22% alcohol
And if it's for personal consumption you will have to have paid the VAT due in the country of origin on the purchase. 
While you can bring in beer AND wine AND a mix of goods from the third category, up the limits given for each, if you don’t use up your limit in one category you can’t transpose unused limit to any to another category. So, for instance, you can't top up your wine allowance with nine more litres of wine unless it's sparkling or fortified - according to the oracle at the WSTA.