A LEADING figure in Scotland’s whisky industry has said that even though leaving the EU’s single market brings uncertainty, it also brings “opportunities”.
David Frost, chief executive the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said that if the UK government gives priority to Scotch whisky exports post-Brexit, it could secure “favourable bilateral trade deals with key export markets”.
Mr Frost pointed to opportunities to engage with the likes of India, a country with which EU talks have proved challenging in recent times.
He told the Press and Journal: “Brexit poses challenges and uncertainty but also brings opportunities if the UK can secure favourable bilateral trade deals with key export markets. India, for example, is a growing market for Scotch but we are being held back by a 150 per cent import tariff.
“EU talks with India have proved challenging for a decade now and we hope the UK will now take a fresh approach to securing an ambitious trade agreement.”
The SWA has set out its priorities for a post-Brexit Britain, which includes the elimination of tariffs and trade barriers with other major markets in China and Brazil, as well as the Mercosur region in South America.
Australia and Thailand were pointed to as markets where new trade deals could reap benefits, while emerging markets such Burma, Vietnam, Angola and Nigeria were also identified.
The think tank Open Europe has said that leaving Europe’s free trade bloc could cost UK businesses £25 billion per year but the SWA has dismissed the value of remaining.
The SWA also played down concerns over the UK leaving the EU Customs Union, the trade bloc that members negotiate collective trade agreements and impose external tariffs on imports.
At nearly £4bn in customs value, Scotch whisky exports are the biggest single net contributor to the UK’s trade balance in goods and is the country’s largest food and drink export.
Mr Frost added: “We want the UK to have an open and liberal trading policy, to put transitional arrangements in place that minimise trade disruption after Brexit, and to negotiate better global arrangements than we currently have. An even more trade-focused British embassy network around the world will be needed to make this happen.
“The UK should be a voice for open markets globally. The more open the market, the more Scotch whisky exports will grow to the benefit of the wider economy.”