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‘We’re going to have to be more competitive with our prices, which will mean lower margins’

The UK craft gin market risks losing valuable EU custom due to higher costs caused by Brexit, distillers have warned.

Since January, continental consumers ordering spirits from the UK have been required to pay local excise duties and other charges.

They have also been hit with bills for customs declarations – frequently up to €20 per declaration – and national VAT on receiving UK goods, The Guardian reported earlier this year.

The charges had “killed EU trade” according to David Thomas, co-founder of Welsh gin producer Jin Talog. A recent shipment to Belgium saw the customer incurring VAT and clearance costs payable to the amount of €31.67 (£27.38) on a £43 bottle of gin, he said.

Selling direct to EU consumers had been a growing part of Jin Talog’s business prior to Brexit, he told The Grocer. Now they were being asked to pay “nearly 100% of the bottle price” in charges. “Expecting any business to work on those conditions is ludicrous in the extreme,” he said.

Whitby Distillery, which exports gin to Germany and France, said it would have to adjust unit prices to navigate the additional charges. “We’re going to have to be more competitive with our prices, which will mean lower margins,” said co-founder and director Luke Pentith.

Other distillers were less fearful of Brexit’s impact. Although it had made EU exports “more challenging”, Foxhole Spirits would continue to explore new markets, said co-founder & MD James Oag-Cooper.

Southwestern Distillery head of export Chris Briers said opening a European warehouse had bolstered its “forward planning capabilities” and helped it distribute its gin “more efficiently”. There was still appetite for UK craft gin in Europe, he added.