UK Politics

Serve English wine to help oil wheels of Brexit, urges MP

Bunch of grapes at British vineyard Image copyright PA

Serving English wine at UK diplomatic functions could help "oil the wheels of Brexit negotiations", an MP has said.

Conservative Nusrat Ghani is calling on the Diplomatic Service to offer homegrown bottles "where possible" to help promote the UK's image abroad.

She told MPs that the UK was "missing opportunities" in countries such as Japan, India, China and Singapore where wine consumption was increasing.

Some 44% of wine drunk at government events in 2015 was English or Welsh.

Ms Ghani, whose Wealden constituency in Kent is home to a number of England's 133 wineries, has presented a ten-minute rule bill to Parliament which would give English firms greater presence at high-profile ambassador's receptions around the world.

She told MPs that the English wine industry, which produced five million bottles last year, could compete with the best from across Europe despite its relatively small size.

Domestic firms, she said, were now official suppliers to Downing Street while she believed that the Queen served English sparkling wines at state banquets.

'Every opportunity'

But she expressed concern at what she said was a "lack of consistency" among the UK's 268 foreign embassies, high commissions and consulates towards showcasing homegrown produce.

"Last week I was told our Rome embassy asked the UK industry to sponsor an evening for Tuscan wines. That is simply not good enough. I doubt Italy's outposts here in London serve anything other than Italian wine."

With the UK set to leave the EU, she said British success stories needed as much support as possible to reach a wider audience while also projecting the UK's post-Brexit "brand".

"Article 50 is on its way and this could be seen as the first post-Brexit bill," she said. "As we leave the EU we must grasp every opportunity to find new markets for our products around the world and be imaginative in supporting them.

"I look forward to the very best of our wines creating a splash in Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Rome for that matter and perhaps helping to oil the wheels of the Brexit negotiations to come."

Her bill got an unopposed first reading in the Commons but is unlikely to become law unless it is adopted by the government - ten-minute rule bills are generally used to raise the profile of an issue rather than precipitate legislation.

According to the most recent statement by the Government Hospitality wine cellar, published by the Foreign Office, the cellar contains over 33,000 bottles of wines and spirits, with a total value of £809,990.

English and Welsh wine were the most commonly served in 2015-6, making up 44% of the total consumed.

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