Press release

Leaving the EU could put scotch whisky exports on the rocks

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss meets Scotch whisky industry leaders on the importance of EU membership for Britain’s biggest food and drink export.

More than £1 billion pounds worth of Scotch whisky exports could be at risk from an industry supporting 40,000 jobs if the UK leaves the EU, according to Scotch whisky chiefs.

Outside the EU, top British producers could face bureaucratic barriers when trading with Europe, leading the industry’s top representative body, the Scotch Whisky Association to stress their support for remaining. The EU single market provides common standards on labelling, certification and licencing creating a level playing field which makes overseas trade far easier for highly regulated industries such as alcohol. British whisky exporters also benefit from deals brokered by the European Union to trade freely with countries such as South Africa, where exports have increased by over 150% since 2004.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss will hear first-hand today how important the EU market is for the £5 billion a year business when she meets industry representatives for a roundtable discussion at Diageo’s Glenkinchie Distillery - home of the famous Edinburgh Malt, supplying leading brands such as Johnnie Walker, Bells and J&B.

Speaking ahead of her visit, she said:

We should all raise a toast to our biggest export success. Europe has a taste for Scotch and the industry will do better if we remain in the EU because whisky producers have hassle free, easy access to the Single Market of 500 million people.

I want the industry to continue to be the powerhouse it has become across the world – boosting our economy and creating jobs. The Scotch whisky industry has strong global trade links beyond Europe in America and Asia, and their business leaders are clear that the EU single market provides the best conditions to reach even greater heights.

Leaving the EU would be a leap in the dark for our great British food and drink industry and could lead to years of negotiations on new trade deals – with no guarantees at the end. Our thriving Scotch industry and the wealth it brings to us all through jobs and investment will be stronger, safer and better off within a reformed EU.

The iconic Scottish spirit has proved the perfect tipple for European countries, with a third of all UK whisky served in bars and homes across Europe and over 1 billion bottles exported worldwide. French connoisseurs now prefer to sip a wee dram instead of a traditional cognac - as exports of British whisky to France were worth almost £450 million last year and more Scotch sold in one month than cognac in a year.

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association Chief Executive, highlighted the importance of the European market for the iconic British drink, saying:

This is an excellent opportunity to meet with Environment Secretary Liz Truss at Glenkinchie - one of 117 Scotch Whisky distilleries – to explain more about the huge significance of the industry to the UK economy, and to discuss the benefits we reap from the UK being part of the European Union.

Scotch supports around 40,000 jobs across the UK, adds around £5 billion in value to the economy and is vital to the UK balance of trade. EU membership has many advantages for Scotch. The single market, including its regulation of food and drink, and its single trade policy are central to the success of Scotch. It lets us trade across the EU simply and easily and helps give us fairer access to other overseas markets.

Diageo, the world’s largest maker of Scotch whisky also expressed support for the Union.

Ivan Menezes, Diageo Chief Executive, said:

Diageo – and specifically our Scotch whisky business – benefits greatly from the UK’s membership of the EU and we strongly believe that we should remain within that union.

The Single Market gives us a level playing field and open access across the EU, while the EU’s clout in international trade helps to open up new markets with agreements favourable to the UK, reducing tariffs and resolving trade disputes.

This drives significant value for us and the wider Scotch whisky industry, sustaining jobs and growth at home.

The iconic Scottish spirit, worth £125 per second to the UK economy, accounts for almost a quarter of all British food and drink exports, with 90% of all whisky produced in the UK exported around the world. The booming industry also supports 40,000 jobs across the UK – 10,000 of which are employed directly through over 100 distilleries across Scotland.

Globally, our EU membership also opens doors to new markets for our whisky distilleries - with trade agreements covering five of the top 10 export destinations outside Europe, reducing barriers for UK exporters. Since the agreement in South Africa came into force in 2004, exports have risen by over 150% and the recently secured deal with Vietnam will eliminate whisky tariffs completely.

In addition, British companies know that wherever they are selling in the EU the core label requirements will be exactly the same. If we were to leave the EU our businesses could face re-labelling costs of around £3,000 for each product line they export.