Peroni owner in Brexit tariff warning
The Japanese owner of Peroni has warned that Brexit could leave the company nursing a severe hangover, with the beer giant's UK boss describing potential restrictions on trade as "evolution in reverse".
Gary Haigh, the managing director of Asahi UK, told the Press Association that it would be a "nightmare" if tariffs were reintroduced and automated EU systems for monitoring trade were replaced with pen and paper after Britain exits the single market.
He said: "One thing the EU has done is reduce the amount of administration required. There's been a concerted effort to make the movement of goods around Europe easier.
"The EU's EMCS (Excise Movement and Control System) is a completely electronic system which governs the movement of all alcohol within Europe. It's paperless, the EU invested a lot of money into it and it works like a dream.
"If we lose the EMCS system, it's going to involve a lot more administration, more people, more pens, more opportunity for error. If we also end up with duty tariffs, it's going to be a nightmare," he said.
Mr Haigh added that jettisoning the system would take the industry "back to 25 years ago", and that it was akin to "putting evolution in reverse".
Asahi UK, which also owns the Grolsch and Meantime brands, imports alcohol from Italy, Holland, Czech Republic and Poland.
The Japanese government and business lobby have been vocal about their dislike of Theresa May's decision to pull Britain out of the single market, warning that companies from the Asian nation could start exiting the UK if it ceased to be a "gateway to Europe".
Higher overheads from the UK potentially ditching the ECMS would come on top of the collapse in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote, which has also resulted in sharp increases in costs for UK firms.
However, Mr Haigh said that Asahi would swallow any extra costs rather than pass them on to customers, insisting that the firm will price Peroni at a level that "reflects the brand's equity".
"We have not passed the impact on to customers, we've taken it upon ourselves to mitigate the impact. We will price Peroni in a way that reflects the brand's equity - we've never tied our pricing to raw materials or anything else," he said.
Asahi acquired Peroni, along with Grolsch and Meantime, from AB InBev last year for around €2.5bn (£2.1bn). AB InBev sold the brands in order to allay competition concerns linked to its mega-merger with SAB Miller.