Forty-one years ago almost to the day, on 5 June 1975, the UK held its first (ever) nationwide referendum on the country's continued membership of the European Communities (or Common Market), which it had entered in 1973. The result of a general election pledge, it was a Labour government – with a split Cabinet – offering a referendum on membership agreed by a Conservative one.
After a bruising campaign so far it feels almost as long since the Prime Minister announced the date of the UK’s referendum on whether to stay in the EU back in February. But 23 June is now only days away. There has been a palpable sense that the Remain and Leave campaigns are raising the intensity of the debate – the temperature of the rhetoric has increased, the volume has been turned up to eleven and the tone has become ever more acrimonious. And with more rivalries, schisms and unlikely alliances than a Shakespearean drama, it is all too easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the referendum which has (rightly) been described as the most important political event in the last forty years. Or forty-one years to be precise.
Like many other voters, I know that those working in the food and drink sector crave more information and less rhetoric. An opinion, not an argument; a view, not a sermon. So, what is the position of the UK’s wine and spirit industry? While we do not speak for everyone in the trade, Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) members are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU. The WSTA represents over 300 UK businesses throughout the supply chain, from producers through to retailers. And ninety percent of members that responded to our survey want the UK to remain in the EU.