July 23, 2019 / 4:54 PM / 2 months ago

Put the prosecco on ice: Italy's farmers fear Johnson 'no-deal' Brexit

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 5, 2018. A spectator serves prosecco into a glass with a strawberry. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s farmers lost no time on Tuesday in warning that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as threatened by incoming British prime minister Boris Johnson could cost them dear.

In 2016, Italy’s then-economic development minister, Carlo Calenda, said Johnson had told him Italy should help Britain retain access to the European Union market after Brexit “because you don’t want to lose prosecco exports”.

On Tuesday, Italy’s largest farmers’ lobby, Coldiretti, said that “the enemy of prosecco will handle Britain’s departure from the EU”, noting that Britons currently buy a third of Italy’s exports of the sparkling wine.

This could plummet if Johnson carries out his threat to leave the EU and its single market on Oct. 31 without a deal - something that would lead to Britain and the EU imposing import tariffs.

But Coldiretti said there could be worse to follow, as characteristic regional food products such as French champagne, Spanish ham or Italian prosecco - the most counterfeited Italian wine - currently enjoy protected status in Britain under EU rules.

“There is a serious risk that the United Kingdom could become a hub for fake made-in-Italy products,” Coldiretti said.

Three years ago, Calenda had argued to Johnson that Britain would be the one to lose out in a no-deal Brexit.

“He said: ‘You’ll sell less prosecco’,” Calenda told Bloomberg TV. “I said: ‘OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips - but I’ll sell less prosecco to one country, and you’ll sell less to 27 countries’.”

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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