Brexit ‘welcomed’ by Scottish whisky sector says Jackson Carlaw
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David Jones, who is also deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) was speaking after a row erupted over the impact of Brexit. The SNP cited data from the House of Commons Library which showed the value of whisky exports to the EU was £547million between January and May 2019, falling to £396million in the same period last year, before rising to £441million in 2021.
Brendan O’Hara, the SNP MP for Argyll and Bute, told Scottish newspaper The Herald: “Scotch whisky plays a crucial role in the success of Scotland’s food and drinks sector and our economy given it accounts for 75 percent of the sector – so for the industry to be losing £5million per week is devastating.
“The triple whammy of a Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for, the pandemic and the US tariffs – which have thankfully now been lifted but not before they cost the industry at least half a billion pounds – have dealt a hammer blow to the Scottish whisky sector.”
However, the UK Government branded the SNP’s claims “misleading”.
A spokeswoman said: “The impact of the Covid pandemic and restrictions across Europe has affected trade and depressed demand, so it is too early to draw firm conclusions on the impacts of our new trading relationship with the EU.
“The latest export statistics for May also show that the value of goods exports to the EU was higher than the monthly average for 2020.
“Industries can also seize new opportunities as we strike new trade deals and reduce trade barriers around the world, as we did when we secured the suspension of the US’s retaliatory tariffs for the Scottish whisky industry earlier this year.”
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Mr Jones concurred, telling Express.co.uk: “The Government assessment is correct.
“It is also correct to say that concluding trade deals around the world will significantly increase the profitability of the Scotch whisky industry.
“For example, there are currently 150 percent tariffs on Scotch in India, which is a huge market.”
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Mr Jones, MP for Clwyd West, added: “As a consequence of the tariffs, Scotch has only a two percent share of the 50 million bottles of whisky sold in the country every year.
“Most of the bottles sold there are domestically-produced and far inferior to Scotch, which is the product that consumers really want.”
He stressed: “The Government is working hard on a trade deal that would remove the tariffs.
“We couldn’t do that if we were still members of the EU.”
A spokeswoman for the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said: “The way Scotch Whisky is exported to the European Union has changed since Brexit, and producers have had to adapt to changes to customs systems, labelling and paperwork, as well as the withdrawal of some transport services.”
The level of exports fluctuated month by month, and this has been impacted over the last 18 months by both Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, she stressed.
She added: “While it was undoubtedly a tough start to the year for companies, the drop in exports in the first quarter is partly explained by increased exports in December 2020.
“Now that infection-control measures in many of our global markets are easing, the pace of the industry’s export recovery is encouraging.”
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss referred to the issue when she visited Scotland last month.
In a message intended for Scottish businesses, the Tory MP for South West Norfolk said: “We want to remove tariffs and to encourage free green trade – our next target is Indian 150 percent tariffs on Scotch whisky.
“We want to invite Scottish businesses into our talks, we want to make sure we are representing your interests, from the farmers to the Tunnocks Caramel wafer producers to whisky distillers; we want to help you take this opportunity.”
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