Nusrat Ghani MP today backed Sussex vineyards as she introduced a new law in the House of Commons. The law seeks to ensure that British embassies and consulates overseas purchase and serve English wines and sparkling wines at events and functions.
The MP for Wealden, which is home to over a dozen vineyards and wine producers, wants the Diplomatic Service to take a more literal approach to the promotion of British exports, by serving English produce itself.
In 2015, 5 million bottles of English wine were produced, and there are now 133 wineries and over 500 vineyards dotted across the English countryside. In her speech in Parliament to introduce the Bill, Ms Ghani mentioned three of those located in Wealden – Bluebell Vineyard Estates, Fox & Fox Vineyards and Downsview Vineyard. Bluebell Vineyard has more than doubled in size since opening in 2005, and now has 70 acres under-vine, and last year it won 16 medals at international wine competitions.
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. What could be a more appropriate setting to promote English wine than the famed ‘ambassador’s reception’?”
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.”
Commenting after the Bill was approved for introduction by the House of Commons without opposition, Ms Ghani said: “Our embassies abroad are an extension and projection of the British brand. Showing support for a high quality and high profile indigenous product such as English wine will demonstrate a confidence in our country and a belief in the opportunities ahead of us.
“Here in Sussex, and particularly in Wealden, we have some of the most successful and enterprising vineyards in the country, producing wine that rivals the very best of France and Spain. We have a fantastic opportunity to promote its reputation around the world, and we must do that on behalf of the brilliant winemakers of Wealden.
“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?”
Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Miles Beale, said: “We are pleased that Nusrat Ghani MP has chosen to support the WSTA’s campaign to serve British drinks at all government and state events. Following the first English wine roundtable hosted by Defra a year ago the WSTA called for our Embassies and High Commissions across the globe to take the lead from Number 10 and serve English wine at events they host overseas.
“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. The UK drinks industry is calling on all politicians to be bolder than ever in their support for British exports.”
Barry Lewis, CEO of United Kingdom Vineyards Association, said: “We are delighted that this subject is being debated in Parliament. English wines seldom feature on the diplomatic service wine list, and it stands to reason that as the representatives for the UK around the world, embassies and high commissions should as a matter of course buy in English and Welsh wines for their functions.
“It would send out a very positive message that these embassies are supporting British businesses by purchasing British products to serve.”