If Donald Trump is Boris Johnson's friend, why is he taking a wrecking ball to whisky industry? – Martin Whitfield

Boris Johnson has asked Donald Trump not to impose a 25 per cent tariff on whisky because of a trade dispute with the EU (Picture: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
Boris Johnson has asked Donald Trump not to impose a 25 per cent tariff on whisky because of a trade dispute with the EU (Picture: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
Share this article
Have your say

It’s likely to fall on deaf ears, but Boris Johnson has made a direct appeal to Donald Trump to rethink his plan to take a wrecking ball to our whisky industry.

An official readout of a call shows that the Prime Minister urged the US President to rethink the 25 per cent tariffs, which stem from a dispute over subsidies to aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

Mr Johnson has been under pressure to intervene because the retaliatory tactic by the US is a major threat to the vital Scotch industry.

Single-malt exports to the US in 2018 were worth over £380 million.

The Glenkinchie distillery, in my constituency, has been around since 1837 and is the finest lowland distillery in Scotland.

I am deeply concerned about the impact on the economy and jobs in East Lothian, as well as other parts of Scotland.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: American plans for tariffs on Scotch whisky 'worrying'

READ MORE: Brexit: How Boris Johnson is causing real damage to UK’s good reputation – Kenny MacAskill

And it’s not just those directly employed in the whisky industry who could be affected.

There is an extensive supply chain, including farmers, especially barley growers, and local maltings.

I agree with the Scotch Whisky Association’s argument that these tariffs are unjust because the industry has nothing to do with the aerospace sector at the heart of this dispute.

There is now just a week to go before the punishing measures are due to be introduced.

Bridges, not barriers

Mr Johnson has been cosying up to Mr Trump, and the President claims he is a friend he can do business with. It’s time for the Prime Minister to prove that he can talk some sense into him.

We need to secure a delay in the implementation of these tariffs, allowing more time for a negotiated settlement to be found.

In the forthcoming UK Budget, there should also be a commitment to provide extra backing to the industry in case the tariffs do end up taking effect.

This particular dispute is not related to Brexit.

But if we are to leave the EU, the US tariffs would not automatically fall – they would continue.

Brexit is not a solution to this, or indeed to any of the problems facing our economy.

Walking away from the top table in Brussels means we will also lose any leverage we have in trying to solve this international crisis.

Our world is more interconnected than ever before. We must build bridges, not erect barriers.

That’s why the people of Britain deserve a final say on Brexit and why I will be campaigning to remain in the EU.

And it’s why the SNP should drop its reckless threat to impose even greater economic hardship through independence.

The best way to build a successful economic future is with a Labour government across the UK, with Scotland in the UK and Britain in the EU.

Martin Whitfield is Labour MP for East Lothian