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Brexit - What is certain is that nothing is certain - Editor's Viewpoint

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Attending the UK Wine & Spirits Trade Association's annual conference in London yesterday, I was particularly struck by one thought: Stripping out every use of the words "if", "could", "might", probably" and "likely" would have made the whole event a darn sight shorter.

In late-June, the UK voted in favour of leaving the European Union

In late-June, the UK voted in favour of leaving the European Union

The main topic of the day? Of course: Brexit.

Having taken a 'Remain' position in the run-up to June's European Union referendum, the WSTA certainly deserves credit for its positive approach since the morning of 24 June. Yesterday's conference was kicked off by CEO Miles Beale heralding the performance of – among others – the country's gin sector. He also noted the burgeoning potential of English wine in the years to come.

Beale was then quick to set the scene for keynote speaker Lord Maude of Horsham, a former Minister of Europe. As well as noting that around a third of the UK's spirit exports are bound for the EU, Beale flagged the importance of the UK wine market to wine producers around the world, including Europe.

"The UK and European trade of wines and spirits is mutually beneficial," Beale said.

Enter Lord Maude, a man well-placed, according to the WSTA, to be "dispassionate about the issues" surrounding Brexit.

And, indeed he was. "Any action that deliberately harms the UK economy also harms the EU economies," best sums up Lord Maude's position. His problem – like everyone else in attendance – was that nothing has actually happened yet. Until the UK triggers the famed Article 50 - "half a page", said Beale: "Five paragraphs" – then the only talks that we hear of are talks about talks, rather than anything concrete.

Certainly, it would have been remiss of the UK trade association not to have discussed the referendum result at its annual conference in some format. To make it the centre-piece, however, resulted in so much use of the conditional tense that the keynote session eventually went a bit … well, blurry.

Of course, drinks companies that import into or export out of the UK need to be kept up-to-date on Brexit-related developments. And, of course, "Business as Usual" is too derogatory a phrase considering the gravity of the result.

But, theoreticals and hypotheticals at this present time are nice-to-know, not need-to-know.


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