Pint-size wine to be allowed on shelves from September - as doubts raised over demand

Pint-sized bottles of wine will be allowed on UK shelves from autumn under new post-Brexit trade rules - but doubts have been raised over their demand.

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake said seven changes to pre-packaged wine sizes are due to come into force on 19 September.

Announcing the date in the House of Commons, he said the measure will support the "thriving" UK wine sector by providing opportunities for "innovation and greater choice".

But the SNP's Patrick Grady said the government should admit there is "little to no demand or interest for this supposedly glorious Brexit benefit".

The move to introduce the 568ml size of wine, to sit alongside 200ml and 500ml measures already available, was announced in December and hailed by ministers as a Brexit "freedom".

Pint bottles of Champagne were sold in the UK before Britain joined the European Common Market and were on shelves until 1973.

But their production ceased as they did not comply with EU weights and measures rules.

Mr Hollinrake told the Commons: "The 568ml pint quantity is one of seven changes in pre-packed wine sizes that are expected to come into force on 19 September 2024, supporting the thriving UK wine sector by providing opportunities for innovation and greater choice."

However, Mr Grady said that was "nowhere near as definitive" as the government press release from December, which was headlined: "Pints of wine stocked on Britain's shelves for the first time ever."

Mr Grady said: "Not will be stocked, not might be stocked, not could be stocked, not to be stocked - it implied that pints of wine were and are available to buy right now in shops across the UK.

"Will the government admit that the reality is there's been little to no demand or interest for this supposedly glorious Brexit benefit and in fact it's entirely possible pints of wine will never be stocked on UK shelves?"

Mr Hollinrake replied: "Well it's never difficult to distinguish the right honourable gentleman from a ray of sunshine, is it?"

He added: "Our new post-Brexit powers provide new options, including new legislation which aligns existing sizes across still and sparkling pre-packed wine so that both can be sold in 200ml and 500ml quantities, which we know there is good demand for."

The change comes amid concern over costly new post-Brexit border checks for food and animal products, which have sparked warnings of higher prices and empty shelves.

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Mr Grady, the MP for Glasgow North, went on to say that "the Brexit dream of people quaffing pints of wine and invoking the spirit of Churchill was always a fantasy" and the "reality is a Brexit nightmare of border checks, of reduced consumer choice and of business closures".

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said the move will increase consumer choice, adding: "If he doesn't like it, he doesn't have to buy it."

'Sheer idiocy'

There will be no legal obligation for businesses to sell the new sizes.

At the time of the announcement, WineGB chief executive Nicola Bates said: "We welcome the chance to be able to harmonise still and sparkling bottle sizes and we are happy to raise a glass to the greater choice."

However some within the industry were more sceptical.

Liberty Wines founder David Gleave MW suggested there wasn't sufficient demand for it, posting on X: "Sheer idiocy. It makes no sense from a quality point of view. And in decades of selling wine, I've never been asked for a pint-sized bottle."

The change comes after a wider post-Brexit overhaul of the UK's measurement system was scrapped.

A government consultation last year found 98.7% of people were in favour of keeping metric units - prompting Rishi Sunak to abandon Boris Johnson's signature Brexit "dividend" of allowing British shops to once again sell products in pounds and ounces.