Brexit costing whisky industry £5 million per week, SNP claim

Brexit is costing the whisky industry £5 million per week, the SNP have claimed.
The SNP have criticised the impact of the Prime Minister's Brexit dealThe SNP have criticised the impact of the Prime Minister's Brexit deal
The SNP have criticised the impact of the Prime Minister's Brexit deal

New analysis from the House of Commons Library shows UK exports of whiskies to the EU were £105.7 million lower in January-May 2021 compared to the same period in 2019.

Figures from the immediate aftermath of Britain leaving the transition period are even worse, dropping £135.9 million from January to March this year compared to 2019.

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SNP MP for Argyll and Bute, Brendan O’Hara, said: “Scotch whisky plays a crucial role in the success of Scotland’s food and drinks sector and our economy given it accounts for 75 per cent of the sector - so for the industry to be losing £5 million 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.

“All in all the losses to Scotch Whisky exports have been eye-watering, as a result of a Tory Brexit and the UK government’s lack of action over the US tariffs - it is beyond time the UK government made amends for this."

In 2019, Scotch Whisky accounted for 75 per cent of all Scottish food and drink exports.

The same research showed salmon exports to the EU were £1.3 million lower, and cheese £5.1 million a week less.

The Scotch Whisky Association claimed the latest figures showed that exports were now growing at a faster rate between March and May this year than they did in 2019.

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A spokesperson for the 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 fluctuates month by month, and this has been impacted over the past eighteen months by both the Covid-19 pandemic as well as by the UK’s departure from the EU.

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“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.”

Downing Street dismissed the claims as “misleading”.

A UK Government spokesperson 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.

“We continue to help businesses get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe, including by running export helplines and webinars with experts, providing financial support to SMEs and delaying the introduction of full import controls.

“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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