scotch whisky

The chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association has warned the sector faces “very real difficulties” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The whisky industry has been widely seen as sheltered from the threat because 0% trade tariffs would apply on exports to the EU in the event of WTO terms coming in.

But at a conference in Edinburgh yesterday, Karen Betts said it was vital for the government to agree a transitional agreement with Brussels.

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“If it comes to it, our industry may well be less affected than some others, given that under WTO rules scotch whisky would still be exported to Europe at a zero tariff,” said Betts, “But we could nonetheless face significant problems if there are delays at the border, or unplanned changes to customs systems and processes, and we would be subject to tariffs on many of our imported inputs - such as, glass, closures, and machinery.”

Betts also called on ministers to secure a future trade deal with the EU with “minimal added complexity and cost”.

For us, that means a minimum of regulatory divergence,” she said. “It makes sense for our industry to continue to remain close to EU rules on labelling, food safety, permitted bottle sizes and so on; not to would simply push up costs.”

But the whisky boss also called for ministers to prioritise forging new trade deals beyond the EU, such as last week’s agreement that the UK would continue to trade with South Africa on the same terms post-Brexit, announced during Theresa May’s visit to the country in which the whisky boss was one of those that took part.