Delivering Scotch Whisky growth during and after Brexit

Scotch Whisky leads the way for Scotland’s food and drink exports around the world. Wherever I have travelled – from the US to the Middle East, from Hong Kong to Brussels – people know about Scotland’s national drink, many have tried it and, of those, I have found a lot of whisky enthusiasts just passionate about Scotch.

More than £4 billion of Scotch is shipped around the world every year, making up about three quarters of Scotland’s food and drink exports, and the industry adds £5 billion of value to the UK economy. This makes Scotch a vital part of Ambition 2030, which aims to double the turnover of Scotland’s farming, fishing and food and drink sectors to £30 billion by 2030 and to make them Scotland’s most valuable industry.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about this at the Ambition and Innovation: The Future of food and drink in Scotland conference in November. One issue on which there will undoubtedly be a great deal of attention is the impact of Brexit. For the Scotch Whisky industry, how we continue to export as successfully as we have once the UK leaves the EU is a subject of enormous focus.

Scotch Whisky has been traded around the world for centuries. The early pioneers of Scotland’s export success were some of the biggest names in Scotch, such as Walker, Dewar and Chivas. We’re determined that our export success will continue through Brexit and beyond, but that isn’t a given and, to ensure it’s the case, we will need the support of government.

In many ways Scotch is in a better position than some other industries to deal with the challenges of Brexit and take advantage of the opportunities. Some things won’t change for Scotch. For example, we won’t face a tariff on exports to the EU (under WTO rules, there’s a 0% tariff on spirits exports to the EU). And in many other markets Scotch will continue to benefit from existing zero tariffs, such as the US, Canada, and Mexico, again because of existing WTO rules. In some markets that already demand high tariffs, for example India where it is 150%, Brexit will not make the situation any worse and, indeed, it could be improved in future trade deals.

But other things will definitely change for Scotch and we have been examining the potential impact and setting out what we want government to deliver. An immediate priority is early agreement on transitional arrangements to support business planning which, in turn, will help secure jobs and investment. We also want to see frictionless customs and excise procedures during and after Brexit; and we will need sufficient advance notice of any new systems.

In addition, we want government to prioritise the following to support Scotch Whisky jobs,
investment and growth after Brexit:

  • Certainty in the laws and regulations that govern our industry – so, getting the EU
    (Withdrawal) Bill right is vital to our businesses;
  • Maintaining robust global legal protection for Scotch Whisky as a Geographical
    Indication (GI);
  • Ensuring new trading arrangements during transition and beyond enable us to maintain
    and grow exports to EU markets and globally. We want to see: a comprehensive trade
    deal with the EU; the continuation of existing EU trade deal benefits; and then an
    ambitious agenda of new Free Trade Agreements around the world;
  • Working with us to support Scotch Whisky as the UK’s biggest net goods export. A
    domestic platform which promotes post-Brexit growth, including an industry sector
    deal for spirits, is important to us;
  • Establishing a structured dialogue with industry. This will be of critical importance as
    the UK enters into trade negotiations with the EU and then other countries.

Ambition 2030 can, without doubt, be achieved by Scotland’s thriving food and drink industry,
but now, more than ever before, we look to the Scottish and UK Governments to work in
partnership with us to create a strong foundation for growth.

By Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association Chief Executive

Karen is speaking at our conference: Ambition and Innovation: The future of food and drink in Scotland. Book your tickets here.